One of the most common fears of people aged 65 and over is that of suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Dementia is caused by a gradual deterioration of brain health, which leads to forgetfulness, confusion, and difficulty with basic problem-solving. However, a new body of research indicates that this deterioration can be staved off. By actively practicing brain exercises like puzzles, memory tests, and other similar games, seniors can improve their brain health and improve their memories. Here are some of the ways different games can help you stay in mental shape, as well as a few of the best types of games for seniors.
A recent study on the effects of brain games on people in their 70s found that a daily set of hour-long exercises boosted the memory, reasoning ability, and mental processing speed of its subjects for a full 10 years after the study was completed. If just two weeks of regular brain exercises can keep your mind healthy for the next decade, imagine the positive effects if you were to incorporate brain games into your daily routine. While the effects of active brain training differ according to each individual, research supports the conclusion that even a little mental exercise a day increases the quality of life of seniors and eases the workload of their caregivers.
How Brain Games Work
Brain games work by activating parts of your brain you may not have to use on a daily basis, like short-term memory and analysis. Just like a muscle, the more you exercise the different parts of your brain, the healthier each part will become. This is why logic puzzles are good for your critical thinking, memory matching games support your short-term memory, and crossword puzzles link together your ability to recall words with your critical thinking. Technologically savvy seniors may enjoy the extra convenience of online brain games. One of the most scientifically acclaimed sources of online exercises is BrainHQ, which focuses on auditory and visual processing to boost and improve cognitive function.
Turn Your Hobbies into Cognitive Exercise
Keep in mind that not every form of mental exercise has to be in the form of an online game. Depending on your interests, you may be able to reap significant rewards from your hobbies. If you enjoy knitting, take the time to teach yourself a set of new knitting patterns, then see if you can replicate the patterns by memory. You can go one step further and pick out the new patterns you have learned from blankets at the store. The specific activity you take does not matter — what is important is that you push yourself to learn something new as often as you can.
You can also develop your mind by presenting it with new experiences and settings. Instead of limiting your brain exercises to a daily crossword, try to mix it up. Do a crossword on one day, a Sudoku puzzle on another, and an online memory matching game on the next day. The key thing is to avoid repetitiveness. While it is perfectly fine to have a routine, try to vary up the steps along that routine to keep your mind engaged. This also applies to your daily schedule — even getting dressed for the day in a different order can have positive effects on your brain.
The best thing about our minds is that they possess the ability to improve themselves. By combining memory exercises, puzzles, logic games, and your own favorite hobbies, you can improve your memory, processing power, and analytical skills, regardless of your age.
Contributed by Lydia Chan. Lydia is the co-creator of Alzheimerscaregiver.net, a website that aims to provide tips and resources to help caregivers. Her mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and Lydia found herself struggling to balance the responsibilities of caregiving and her own life. She is passionate about sharing her knowledge and experiences with caregivers and seniors. In her spare time, Lydia finds joy in writing articles about a range of caregiving topics.