While it’s normal to experience some cognitive decline with age, including attention issues and slowed processing speeds, that doesn’t mean you can’t continue to sharpen your brain. Some easy and fun ways for you and aging loved ones to stay mentally sharp are with pastimes you may have enjoyed in your younger years — games and puzzles.
We’ve rounded up six types of games and puzzles for seniors that are not only fun, but can help stimulate the brain.
1. Crossword Puzzles
Crossword puzzles have been around since the 19th century, and have since become more elaborate and a common staple in many publications. Seniors with a love of trivia, words and puzzles may find that a daily crossword is not only entertaining, but gratifying.
Plus, some studies have found that doing crossword puzzles may help prevent further memory loss in those with dementia, may preserve cognitive function better than some medications, and can boost memory retention.
Beyond newspapers and periodicals, there are many resources for crosswords these days. You can find free large-print downloads online, or invest in some crossword books. Although many people do crosswords solo, it can also be fun to work on them as a group.
2. Large-Piece Jigsaw Puzzles
Jigsaw puzzles require spatial reasoning, motor skills, patterning and more, which can all add up for an effective brain exercise. As people age, however, joints and eyesight aren’t always what they once were.
Luckily, puzzle producers understand the benefits of puzzles for all ages, and many make large-piece jigsaw puzzles to accommodate different customers. A couple of great sources for large-piece jigsaw puzzles include SeniorStore.com and the Puzzle Warehouse.
3. Reminiscing Board Game
Reminiscing is an entertaining, fun and sentimental board game that may also help boost memory. Loaded with opportunities to remember the years of old, the Reminiscing board game is a great way to learn more about history, bond with family and keep senior loved ones engaged. You'll learn what elder loved ones experienced, while forming new cherished family memories.
4. Wii Bowling
Video games are not only for the younger generations — many seniors, too, find these games fun and engaging, especially with the Nintendo Wii. The Wii is a more interactive system, which allows a user to both physically and mentally engage. A great intro to the system is Wii Bowling. For those who want a social addition, there is even a National Senior Wii Bowling League.
5. Free Online Games
One of the benefits of the Internet is the sheer amount of brain-teaser games available around the clock. Numerous sites offer classic and new games that can benefit the brain at any age. Popular favorites like sudoku and chess are available, and you can find a whole selection of others on sites like Online Games for Seniors.
If you need an added incentive, a recent study done in the UK showed the benefits of participating in online brain building games as a senior. In the researcher’s words, “The impact of a brain training package such as this one [online brain training games] could be extremely significant for older adults who are looking for a way to proactively maintain their cognitive health as they age.”
6. Brain Age Games
While chess and sudoku and some of the other games found online can help sharpen your mind, there are online games websites specifically designed to test and boost your brain age.
One such site is Free Brain Age Games. On the website you’ll take a quick quiz to determine your biological brain age, then you’ll get games to play. Each set of five you complete will move you up the brain age scale.
Another version of this game is available for Nintendo. Nintendo’s version is designed to increase concentration, and you can even do it with others through the “train with others” feature.
No Reason Not to Play
There are numerous benefits to participating in games and puzzles as a senior. It can promote socializing, it’s engaging and can bring a host of brain-strengthening benefits. All in all, there’s really no reason not to play.