There is a positive link between healthy mind and cognitive-enhancing activities.  Activities that promote healthy mind and are regularly used at Aspen Senior Center include:

  • Reading: Reading the newspaper, favorite book, a menu, or even food labels everyday helps people retain cognitive skills and abilities. Visual impairment and/or dementia may prevent individuals from participating in the full benefits of reading. Large print materials, focus on familiar words, and reading out loud together are good strategies.
  • Puzzles: Crossword and jigsaw puzzles can help keep the mind busy. Learning new words and their definitions can increase vocabulary and provide a sense of accomplishment. Those with cognitive declines can participate more comfortably using large print puzzles and/or jigsaws with simple color/subject (e.g., green tree, brown horse) and larger and fewer pieces.
  • Word games: Rhyming, Name Ten, Would You Rather, and word search games are excellent ways to exercise the brain. Simple, one-syllable rhyming words (e.g., all, ball, call, doll, fall…) can be fun and engaging. At Aspen, we display the alphabet to assist with building words. Ask the person to name ten items, such as colors or animals. Would you rather questions enhance thinking skills, as you ask would you rather have a dog or cat for a pet; be a bird or a fish; take a trip to Africa or Japan; meet Bing Crosby or Frank Sinatra; see a funny movie or love story; and/or visit the zoo or a museum. These games require nothing but your creative imagination! And large-print word search games stimulate spelling. If it is too difficult to find words try circling letters, such as all the Ds, then all the Ws. You can use different color pens/markers for each letter and be sure to count them together.
  • Guessing, Name that Tune, and matching games: Simple questions describing something the individual is familiar with (and/or can see while playing the game) can be enjoyed: What is soft, brown, and purrs (and is on your lap)–the cat. Another way to play is to combine guessing with music: sing the first few words of the song and allow the individual to finish the sentence. For example, “You are my____” (Sunshine)/ “The Sound of____” (Music). You can create or purchase matching games–we have our clients at Aspen help us color and cut out the games we use. Basic shapes, animal or nature pictures work well. Spread them out on a table and help the individual find matching pairs.
  • B-I-N-G-O!! We play bingo daily, as it encourages mental and social stimulation. We sing the Bingo song when each person gets a bingo. Simple cards can be printed for free from the computer or created with stickers, shapes, pictures.
  • Another, maybe more difficult game is Suduko. A person may become confused/frustrated if they are unfamiliar with the game. For those who enjoy it, Suduko stimulates the brain to problem-solve with numbers.

These simple, inexpensive activities can help build self-confidence and purpose, retain skills and knowledge, promote more laughter, be entertaining, redirect behavior from negative to positive/calm, relieve boredom, and reduce depression for both the individual with dementia and his/her caregivers.

I’d rather have a pet dog and meet Bing 😀
Happy playing–Good luck!

Tamara Nixon BS, CHES

Healthy Mind and Cognitive Stimulation