When my mother started to slip cognitively her doctor recommended we play basic, brain stimulating games to help slow the pace of decline. Our family favorite game was Yahtzee. Yahtzee can be a high energy game of basic strategy and elementary level counting. We witnessed our mom’s level of engagement tick up when we played and as far as counting goes, in the beginning, she was as sharp as ever. – Mrs. Bradshaw
Much has been written about the role games might play in protecting a senior from memory loss or slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease or a related form of dementia. According to the experts from the Alzheimer’s Association, keeping your brain active and engaged may help guard against mental decline. Some researchers even believe stimulating brain activities can aid in generating new brain cells.
Another study, published by The Lancet in March 2015, found the combination of a healthy diet, strength training, aerobic exercise, controlling blood pressure/weight and brain games slows mental decline in older people.
Many companies have branded games as “brain games” and some of them are effective but we wanted to give you some ideas that don’t require spending a lot, or any, money. With the holidays coming it may be the perfect time to dust off old favorites or adopt new ones.
Here are a few ideas to explore:
- Card Games: Most seniors can access a deck of cards easily and the process of adding, subtracting, strategizing, matching suits is both fun and beneficial. Gin or 500 Rummy, spades, hearts, pinochle, crazy eights, 21 or blackjack and bridge are just a few games seniors may have played in their youth.
- Jigsaw Puzzles
- Dot to Dot pictures followed by coloring; a fun activity for seniors and younger children
- Board Games: Monopoly, chess, checkers, Connect Four, Boggle, bingo
- Counting Backwards: Another brain stimulating activity that requires no internet access or special supplies is counting. But instead of counting forward, begin at the number 200 and count backwards subtracting 3 each time you do.
- Puzzle Books: Old-fashioned crossword and word search puzzle books might also help keep your brain in good shape. A few of the advantages these books offer is that they are inexpensive and easily portable. You can work them wherever you are whether it is waiting in a doctor’s appointment or your favorite chair in the living room.
AARP Game Center: One of the best and most comprehensive game sites on the web is put together and hosted by AARP. Here you will find everything from online jigsaw puzzles to brain health crossword puzzles.
Researchers are working diligently to treat memory loss and permanently reverse the effects of cognitive decline but until they find the right solution try some of our ideas the next time you are with your senior loved ones.