Categories: Health & Wellness | Published On: October 6, 2022 |

6 Brain Games for Older Adults that Really Work

3 minute read
6 Brain Games for Older Adults that Really Work

Aging adults are increasingly aware that it’s not just the body that needs to stay fit, but the mind, as well. While there is no shortage of ways to stay physically active, figuring out how to keep the mind in tip-top shape can be a struggle. One easy (and fun) option is playing brain games that improve mental function and preserve cognitive health. Popular in recent years, these games promise improved memory, problem solving, and response time — but do they really work?

What are brain games and how can they improve your memory?

Although some evidence suggests designated ‘brain training’ programs (such as apps or games played online made specifically to improve your brain) only help improve your skill at the game you’re playing, there are lots of other activities proven to keep your mind sharp. Many of them are also enjoyable to do! 

A brain game is an activity designed to flex your memory, thinking skills, logic, or attention span. When you challenge yourself with a puzzle, word game, or riddle, you develop your problem-solving skills, develop creativity, and keep your brain sharp. Although some brain games can be played on a phone, tablet, or computer, you don’t need to be technically savvy to join in! In fact, you might be playing them already. 

Physical fitness and mentally stimulating hobbies are both recognized as great ways to maintain  brain health as you age. Learning a language, taking a dance class, or sewing a quilt are all ways to stay mentally fit. However to improve your memory and practice your focus, games for the brain (like crosswords, word searches, jigsaw puzzles, or Sudoku) are the way to go. 

 If you’re looking for brain games, here are some great options:

6 best brain games for adults

1. Crossword puzzles

A recent article in Scientific American suggests these wordy brain games have a special kind of magic. Crossword puzzles require you to switch between your short-term spatial memory and your long-term memory. Your short-term spatial memory lets you remember the shape of the puzzle so you can flip or rotate the word. Your long-term memory helps you work through the clue itself (such as remembering an actress you saw in a television show). When you solve a crossword, you use both at the same time — a unique workout for your brain! 

Although there is some research that contradicts the value of crossword puzzles, one study showed regular crossword puzzlers delayed memory issues by about 2.5 years, regardless of how educated they were or how often they did other mentally stimulating activities. These wordy brain games can also help improve your problem-solving skills overall. Not to mention they’re a lot of fun!

2. Anagrams

Have you ever done the Jumble in your newspaper? If so, you’re familiar with anagrams — a type of wordplay that involves rearranging scrambled letters to form an ordinary word or phrase. Thanks to anagram books, websites, and apps, it’s now easier than ever to find and work through as many word puzzles as you want. Not only will this help you in your next game of Scrabble, but it might also make you faster or more efficient at word-related tasks (like reading or writing). If you’re already a word whiz, take it up a level! Word puzzles that are mentally challenging and provide a learning experience (such as Wordle, a fun new game put out by the New York Times) are more likely to exercise your brain, grow new neural pathways and maintain old ones.

3. Jigsaw puzzles

Doing jigsaw puzzles aren’t just fun, they also provide your brain with plenty of benefits. Whether it’s short-term memory (“where did I put that piece again?”), visual-spatial reasoning (“if I just flip this around—there!”), or problem-solving skills, jigsaw puzzles give your brain a workout while offering a relaxing and enjoyable pastime. 

They’re also great for mindfulness, stress relief, or taking a trip down memory lane. A familiar image can evoke special memories for you or a loved one (which could help with conditions like dementia or Alzheimer’s), and many companies can make custom photo puzzles with a treasured image. You could also choose a picture of a familiar city, an animal that reminds you of a beloved pet, or a favorite spot to travel. 

4. Sudoku puzzles

Not a word person? Sudoku puzzles are logic-based number games played on a grid. They can be done with or without technology, in your local paper, puzzle books, or online. Logic puzzles, like Sudoku, force your brain to think a few steps ahead. It also flexes your problem-solving muscles, helps with short-term memory, and improves concentration. 

Challenging your friends or family in some healthy competition is even better: processing speed is an area that tends to decline with age, so you’ll get a brain boost in addition to bragging rights.

5. Trivia games

Trivia is another great tool for your brain! Scanning through your mental storage bins to find a person, place, or name helps you practice your long-term memory while puzzling through the clue itself helps work out your problem-solving skills. Not only that, answering questions correctly gives your brain a boost of feel-good dopamine!

Whether you’re playing Trivial Pursuit with your family, playing along with a show like Jeopardy!, or getting together with a group of friends to socialize over a game of pub trivia, trivia works out your memory while having a lot of fun. 

6. Word searches

Word searches are a fun and relaxing activity you can do while you eat breakfast, watch TV, or spend time in the sun. They work multiple parts of your brain by solving where the first few letters of the word are, visually considering its length and reasoning where it could fit on the grid. Since they’re not very challenging, experts suggest upping the difficulty by doing them with a time limit. If you’re still not feeling challenged, try doing crossword puzzles instead!

Other brain-building activities

While the brain games listed above help keep your mind sharp as you age, they’re not the only activities that benefit your brain.  Here are some additional brain-building activities:

Your brain should be exercised just like other parts of your body. Activities and games that benefit the brain can also help you stay active, be social, and have fun.

This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While the information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by Royal Bank of Canada or its affiliates.

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