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Improve Memory and Mental Health: 25 Brain Games for the Elderly
As we grow older, while physical fitness is still important, so is exercising the mind. Keeping the brain active can be carried out through various avenues such as memory games for improving memory, stimulating puzzles or traditional card games.
Here we’ve listed 25 of the best brain games you can play with your elderly relatives or loved ones to help keep their brains active. Each brain training activity or game is a fun and effective way to improve overall mental health for all ages, particularly older adults. We’ve included an activity or brain game to suit all abilities, and the best part is they can be enjoyed almost anywhere.
1. Trivia Quizzes
Trivia is a great way to stimulate elderly adults’ minds, and it can also provide a good laugh! With the infinite amount of trivia topics available online, it is up to you to decide on which topic and whether or not it will be played in groups or individually.
Creating teams is a fun way to add a bit of competitiveness and winners can be rewarded with a small prize. Choose whether or not answers are called out or written down, depending on the ability of the elderly adult you’re playing with.
Trivia topic suggestions:
– Current affairs
– General knowledge
– TV shows from the past
Solving Sudoku puzzles is excellent for keeping seniors’ minds sharp by preserving their logical thinking skills and mental abilities. Sudoku is a popular game among the elderly as it encourages them to utilise different parts of the brain they may not necessarily use in everyday life.
Best of all, a successful game of Sudoku can provide older adults with a great sense of accomplishment. Your elderly loved ones can play this game online, or if they aren’t comfortable with using a computer, there are plenty of printable resources available.
3. Keep the hands and mind busy with arts & crafts
Arts and crafts are one of the best activities for the elderly to participate in as not only does it encourage the use of the mind, but it keeps the hands busy too. Using their hands helps to maintain dexterity, and being able to explore their creative side helps with the use of the imagination. Your elderly loved one might like this activity simply because they enjoy being creative, or perhaps they want to create a gift for family and friends.
Consider trying these easy arts and crafts at home:
– Greeting cards
– Beaded bracelets
4. Word puzzles
Get your elderly loved one’s brain buzzing with enjoyable yet challenging word puzzles. Word puzzles are a fantastic way to keep elderly adults entertained and exercise their brain. It doesn’t matter if they don’t complete the word puzzle, they will still enjoy searching for words or trying to think of the missing words, depending on the type of word puzzle you choose. There is a range of word puzzles available online, or you can find them in most book stores.
Here are some word puzzles that are popular with seniors:
– Word search
– Finish the saying
Bingo is an old favourite amongst the elderly community as it encourages social interaction, typically played in care homes, but it can still be enjoyed in your own home. While this is a fun and enjoyable game for the elderly, it also provides some essential health benefits.
Health benefits include stimulating the following key senses:
– Hearing: listening to which numbers are called out
– Sight: when looking for the numbers on the bingo card
– Touch: using a pen or marker to dab out numbers
As this is such a social game, there is the added benefit of reducing loneliness and increasing general wellbeing levels.
6. Learn a new language
Learning a new language might sound a little daunting, but challenging our brain is the best way to enhance brain health and reduce the impact of aging. Depending on your loved one’s physical and mental health condition, there are a variety of ways to learn a new language.
Here are some suggestions:
– Online: OpenLearn, Memrise, and Busuu
– Mobile and tablet apps: DuoLingo, Babbel, and Rosetta Stone
– Check local community centres for language classes
– Books and audiobooks from local libraries
Why don’t you have some fun and try out these Spanish words:
– Hola / Hello
– Adiós / Goodbye
– ¿Cómo estás? / How are you?
7. Try a brain training app
As long as your elderly loved one has a mobile phone or tablet they will be able to download apps to help with brain training. The best thing about using apps is they can be used and accessed anywhere. Depending on the type of app being used, these apps can improve concentration levels, visual-spatial skills and problem solving. A quick search in the app store will provide you with hundreds of brain training apps to choose from.
Here are a few app suggestions that may help stimulate your elderly loved one’s brain:
8. Online games
The internet provides a vast amount of resources for online games for the elderly. Just be sure you read any online reviews or try the games yourself first, as sometimes it can lead to frustration if the game is too challenging. Above all, ensure the games are fun and enjoyable. If the games are too difficult your loved one may become disinterested.
You don’t need to be an experienced computer user to enjoy online games; they are easy to access and quick to find. Plenty of online games provide multi-player mode, so if you would like to keep this a sociable activity you can play too!
You might like to take a look at the following online games:
– Sharp Brains
– Daily Word Search
– Brain Trainer
– The Jigsaw Puzzles
9. Think outside the box with logic puzzles
Neural pathways in the elderly can become dormant after retiring; this is why logic puzzles that require lateral thinking are great for stimulating these pathways. Logic puzzles are specifically designed to test how you use the information provided to you. These types of puzzles will encourage your loved one to think outside the box by creating new solutions and help them to think logically. You can check out some online brain teasers here.
10. The classic game of Chess
Chess is a game of strategy and is beneficial for strengthening logical reasoning and problem solving among elderly chess players. Your elderly loved one might be worried about playing chess as it can seem complicated at first. However, once they get the hang of it, after just a few months they could see great benefits such as an increased IQ and increased levels of focus. If you have a chess set you can play with your loved one in person, or they can play alone online here.
11. Special tasks to boost memory and attention
Memory loss is one of the most common complaints among elderly adults, which is why it’s important to engage in some simple games to help with improving memory and retention.
Consider the following games:
– Stating the months of the year in alphabetical order
– Using the letter ‘S’ name six or more things you can wear on your feet
– Observe the objects around you for two minutes, then try to find five red items that will fit in your pockets and five blue objects that are too big to fit (choose suitable colours depending on your surroundings)
– Say two objects for every letter in your first or last name, stating different objects each time
12. Jigsaw puzzles
If you want to start with a simple activity to stimulate the mind, try completing a puzzle. While this might seem basic, there are a multitude of benefits for your elderly loved one, such as a slower breathing rate which aids in reducing anxiety and lowering blood pressure levels. Jigsaw puzzles can also be a great distraction to help slow busy minds.
13. Games for those living with dementia
It has been said that keeping the brain stimulated through games can help slow the progression of dementia. There are certain board games targeted at those living with dementia.
Perhaps you might like to try the following games if your loved one receives a dementia diagnosis:
– Amazing Chase: this can be used in both early and late stage dementia
– Call to Mind: this game is specifically aimed at understanding how your loved one thinks and to understand what they like and don’t like
– Snakes and Ladders: perfect for mental stimulation
– Animal Snap: this card set is specially designed around cognitive stimulation therapy for those living with dementia
14. Identify botanicals
It’s so important that your elderly loved one spends time outside of the house, whether that’s exercising, going shopping or visiting a local cafe or restaurant. However, if for some reason your loved one is unable to leave the house you can simply spend some time in the garden identifying botanicals. The fresh air can stimulate their brain and have a positive impact on their mental health.
15. Reading fiction books
Encouraging a loved one to read is an activity they can enjoy on their own. If they are unable to read you could spend time reading with them or set up a recording of the book. The benefits of this immersive activity are enhanced vocabulary and the ability to boost cognitive skills.
If you want to add something extra to the book readings, you could ask them to tell the story back to you once they have completed the story. This will help with improving memory skills and it adds a bit of socialising to what is usually a solo activity.
16. Enhance short-term memory with the serving tray game
The tray game for seniors requires some assistance from yourself or your loved one’s live-in caregiver. This game is aimed at enhancing short-term memory, which is usually the most affected as we age. By engaging in this easy activity everyday it will help stimulate their brain and best of all, setting up the tray game is simple!
How to play the tray game:
1. Lay out a tray
2. Choose a few random objects and place them on the tray
3. Allow your loved one to have a quick peek at the tray, then cover the items
4. Try to remember all the objects that were on the tray
17. Shopping list game
The shopping list game was created to encourage those living with dementia to participate in conversation and to trigger familiar reminders. This memory game can help the elderly to improve their memory through challenging their mind and enhancing memory skills.
How to play the shopping list game:
1. The first player must state *“I went to the supermarket and bought (you can choose the item)”*
2. The second player must repeat what you bought and then add an item on top of that
3. Continue this back and forth until someone can no longer remember the list of groceries
4. You can play with as many people as you like, but sticking to a smaller group might be best
18. Card matching
The card matching game is a great way to increase your elderly loved one’s memory skills. The game can be played with friends or alone.
How to play the card matching game:
1. You will simply need one pack of cards
2. Lay the cards face down on a table
3. Choose two cards to flip over
4. If these two cards match you can have another go trying to find more matching cards
5. If you are unsuccessful it is then the other players turn
6. The winner is determined by who has the most matched pairs
19. Try video games
A lot of people believe that video games are played mostly by children and teenages, however, they are a great activity for the elderly too. Playing video games is considered to be beneficial for older adults as it requires planning, quick responses and a memory as to which buttons to use. The same applies for computer games. Your loved one will feel a sense of achievement if successful when playing their chosen games.
20. Over 50s volunteering
Volunteering is a great way for the elderly to gain a sense of purpose and feel part of a community, it’s also a great opportunity to encourage social interaction. Through volunteering the elderly can take advantage of learning new skills and may also prevent feelings of depression and isolation.
Consider trying one of the following:
– Mentoring youth
– Taking care of animals
– Working in charity shops
Check online for local volunteering opportunities or speak with community groups, there are bound to be a multitude of volunteer opportunities for your elderly loved ones.
21. Easy and fun party games for the elderly
Just because someone is elderly, does not mean they no longer enjoy celebrating. Some party games may become more challenging as we age, so it’s important to choose suitable games that match your loved one’s mental and physical abilities. A popular and easy game to try at your next celebration is ‘Partners in Pen’.
Here’s how to play Partners in Pen:
1. The game must be played in pairs
2. Player one requires a pen and paper
3. Player two will have a bag of objects
4. The player with the objects must choose one and describe it to the other player
5. The other person must then try and draw what is being described
6. The purpose of the game is for the player drawing to guess what item it is they’re drawing
7. You can make it a little more challenging by adding a timer
22. Combine mental and physical training
Combining mental and physical training through activities such as dancing is a great way to keep the elderly fit and active, while also encouraging social interaction. Through dancing your elderly loved one’s brain will be stimulated by learning new steps and routines, helping to decrease blood pressure levels and increase general wellbeing.
Check for nearby dance classes, especially ones tailored for the elderly, these types of classes usually include chair dancing to ensure all abilities are included.
Card games like Solitaire help to keep elderly adults’ brains sharp. Solitaire is recognised as one of the most popular card games in the world and it can be played either in person or online here. Card games are thought to benefit Alzheimer patients by increasing thinking and memory skills. The game is slow paced, meaning your loved one can take their time and stimulate their brain for a long period.
Scrabble is a true classic and can be enjoyed not only by elderly adults, but all ages. There are certain benefits for older adults in particular though, such as improving memory functions (thinking of words to use on the board), lowering blood pressure (because of the relaxing nature of the game) and can increase overall general wellbeing.
While playing there are sure to be funny words that will be entertaining for your loved one. There might even be words that you or your loved one have never heard of, making this a great educational game too.
25. Brain Yoga
You’ve probably heard of Yoga before, but have you ever heard of Brain Yoga? This is possibly one of the easiest physical activities, yet highly mentally challenging for the elderly, and anyone for that matter. There is no equipment required and it can be done from anywhere, all you need is yourself!
Brain yoga aims to stimulate the brain using only your body to help improve your motor abilities (which will in turn improve neural pathways) and improve hand-eye coordination, resulting in increased mental abilities.
Here’s an example you might like to try:
– Make a fist with your right hand and raise your thumb, hold this position
– Then, make a fist with your left hand and extend your pinkie finger
– Now try alternating between each hand
The instructions might seem simple, but I’m sure you’ll find it’s quite tricky! Stimulate the grey matter in the brain and gain muscle memory by trying this with different parts of the body.
It’s clear there are many ways elderly adults can stimulate their brain to increase mental health and improve their memory skills, it’s just a matter of finding the best suited activity for each individual.
It’s important to engage in these brain stimulating activities as often as possible. Studies show that elderly adults might see benefits such as improvements in performing daily tasks and increased memory ability thanks to certain brain training games.
So take the time and ensure brain games are a high priority as part of your elderly loved one’s daily routine. If you’re struggling to find the time to provide full-time care for your loved one or they have a certain health condition that’s making it difficult for you to continue to care for them, you might want to consider arranging a live-in caregiver.
Elder provides full-time live-in caregivers across the country and we can have a highly qualified carer with you in as little as 24 hours. If you would like more information about live-in care, please get in touch with one of our friendly care advisors today for an obligation free consultation.
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