As people age, it’s important to keep the body as healthy as possible by engaging in a reasonable amount of physical activity and exercise. But it’s equally important to exercise the mind — according to the Mayo Clinic, staying mentally active can help prevent memory loss and dementia. This has never been more important as more people are using social distancing from the elderly and those most vulnerable amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Thankfully, games are one of many fun things to do at home and an effective way to improve memory and overall mental health. And thanks to the wonders of the internet, there’s no need to take your aging parent or a loved one on a shopping spree in the overwhelming board game section of your nearest department store. There’s a wealth of free options online; here are five of our recommendations.
1. Web Sudoku
Sudoku is a logic-based puzzle in which the player fills a 9×9 grid with digits so that every column, row, and 3×3 subgrid contains all the digits from one through nine. Playing Sudoku requires the player to spot patterns and use strategic thinking to solve the puzzle.
Some studies have found that playing brain games like Sudoku may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Because Sudoku challenges you to solve an unpredictable pattern, it could potentially prepare players to use similar logic and reasoning skills to handle unpredictable problems they face in real life. Billions of Sudoku puzzles are available for free on Web Sudoku.
2. Boatload Puzzles
Crossword puzzles are another brain-exercising game that studies indicate may reduce the risk of dementia. Regularly solving crossword puzzles improves verbal skills and brain and memory functions in all age brackets, including older adults. And, like Sudoku, they help with problem-solving skills.
In addition to improving memory function and strategy skills, Scrabble is one of the most enjoyable, relaxing multiplayer games — so it has social benefits as well. Players can share a laugh when someone inevitably puts a funny or ridiculous word on the board, and there’s always some good-natured banter about whether or not a player’s contribution is really a word.
For a wide sampling of brain games, join Luminosity for free. With over 40 cognitive games and exercises, users have the opportunity to improve their critical thinking, memory, and problem-solving skills.
When users join Luminosity, they take a test on the app that helps them work out a personalized training program that best suits their needs and preferences. They also receive guidance along the way, such as insight into how exactly they play and tips on how to improve. Luminosity offers games in the categories of logic, puzzles, memory, problem solving, critical thinking, math, and vocabulary.
In addition to being one of the most popular board games of all time, studies suggest that people over the age of 75 who play chess are less likely to develop conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Chess is a game of strategy that engages both the logical and creative sides of the brain, thus strengthening a player’s problem-solving abilities and memory functions. Play online where you can set the level anywhere between one (beginner) and ten (grandmaster).
Jenga is a cool game, no matter how old you are. But above all, Jenga is uncomplicated, allows players to take their time, and can be pretty exciting. This game promotes physical skills and helps seniors pay attention to detail. It pushes players to assess situations and determine which moves work best. It’s a great way to keep their minds and hands busy and alert.
Written by Caitlin Flynn.