Best Brain Games for the Elderly to Keep Their Minds Sharp

It’s no secret that exercise is good for your body, but what if we told you that exercising your brain is just as beneficial for your mind? Studies around the world have shown that brain exercises – in the form of some of your favourite activities – have a lasting positive impact on cognitive functioning and memory.

Men playing chess at a picnic table

Description automatically generated

Photo by Vlad Sargu on Unsplash

The activities that help exercise your brain range from crafts like knitting and painting to games like trivia, card games and even online games. 

How do games help, what are the benefits and, more importantly, which ones exercise your brain the most? Below, we’ll take a look at the answers to these questions.

How Do Games Help Keep Minds Sharp? 

Games offer a low-stakes challenge that exercises crucial brain functions often negatively affected by age and the onset of dementia diseases, such as memory and processing speed. 

Participating in games and even learning new games encourages your brain to use your problem-solving, creativity and planning skills, all of which help keep your mind sharp and functioning quickly and effectively.

What Are the Benefits of Brain Games for Seniors?

Although games offer many benefits to the mind, these are the most notable:

A Social Outlet

Playing games in person with friends and family allows seniors to stay connected and close to the people in their lives. Maintaining an active social life has also been linked to decreased dementia diagnoses

New Neuro Connections

Learning new things, like a new game, can help your brain make new connections through problem-solving and planning, keeping it sharp and functioning better.

Improved Memory

Memory, like a muscle, works better with regular use and exercise. Games work those memory “muscles” to help them continue functioning and even delay the effects of dementia.

Improved Mental Health

Playing games helps release dopamine, a hormone that makes you feel happy and supports your memory and brain function. Games, particularly puzzles, have even been associated with meditative behaviours like slower and more regular breathing, which helps combat mental health issues like anxiety and stress.

A Sense of Control

When seniors receive a diagnosis like Alzheimer’s, games and other activities that work the brain allow people a sense of control and a better sense that they’re caring for themselves. 

Delayed Cognitive Decline

The benefits above all come together and contribute to overall improved cognitive functioning, delayed memory problems and maintained cognition speed, all of which are areas of concern that happen as we age or after a diagnosis of dementia.

Which Games Exercise the Brain?

There are many games that stimulate the brain and keep it functioning well. The categories range from board games to games of chance. Below, you’ll find some of the most popular games:

Board Games

Board games offer strategy and logic challenges for the brain, plus they can be entertaining even for those new to board games. Some popular brain-exercising board games include Scrabble, chess, checkers and Backgammon.

Puzzle Games

Puzzle games are another way of challenging the brain, and jigsaw puzzles in particular have even been shown to aid in creative functions of the brain – creating a well-rounded brain workout. Puzzle games can range from sudoku and crossword puzzles to jigsaw puzzles, offering a wide variety that you can pick and choose from to suit your interests best.

Bingo

Although bingo is a game of chance, many elements support the brain’s functioning, including the social aspect when it’s played at community centres or retirement communities. Beyond this, it also exercises hand-eye coordination (to mark your bingo card accurately), hearing (to know which numbers are called), and brain processing (reading through the card promptly before another number is called).

Trivia Games

Trivia games can cover various topics, meaning you can tailor your trivia game to your interests to make it even more fun and engaging. Regardless of the topic, they all work on your recall and memory, helping your mind stay sharp. Many trivia games even offer options for people to play in groups, adding a social element to the gameplay, which, as we’ve discussed, benefits your overall well-being in many ways.

Card Games

Card games can be a valuable tool in improving memory and keeping the mind active. Most card games rely on your memory to keep up with the game and actions you, as a player, should take. This makes playing card games a fun way to challenge your mind. 

Like many of the games we’ve mentioned, card games offer options to play individually, against others and even as a team. Some popular card games that exercise the brain include memory, solitaire and bridge.

Online Games

Many games on this list are available online, making them accessible for anyone to play anywhere and anytime. Online versions of games even allow people to independently play games that would otherwise require multiple players. Online, you can also find a wide variety of other games, like Lumosity or casino games, that can help exercise the brain, a fact that makes playing slots a lot more interesting

Games Keep Your Brain in Tip-Top Shape

Playing games has been a fun way to pass the time for millennia, regardless of age; both the young and old enjoy it. The fact that it’s doing more than helping us enjoy our time alone and with others just feels like icing on the cake. So, here’s to supporting our health and the longevity of our minds with the fun and joy of games!