10 November 2022

Benefits of puzzles and brain games for the elderly

7 min read

Just like our bodies, our brains need regular exercise to stay healthy and strong. This is especially true as we age, when maintaining cognitive function becomes increasingly essential for independent living and overall wellbeing. The good news? Keeping your mind active can be enjoyable and accessible. Simple puzzles, games and activities can be done anywhere, anytime, and offer a surprising range of benefits beyond just passing the time. Let's explore the many advantages brain games hold for older adults.

How do puzzles help older people?

Older people can reap many benefits from working on puzzles. Mentally, puzzles stimulate cognitive function. Studies suggest that keeping our minds active through everyday activities like reading or puzzles might reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Completing a puzzle strengthens memory by requiring individuals to recall shapes, numbers and placement of pieces. This ongoing mental exercise helps to keep the mind sharp and improve problem-solving skills.
Puzzles can also have a positive impact on mood. The sense of accomplishment that comes with completing a puzzle can elevate mood and combat stress. The focused concentration required can be a form of mindfulness, offering a calming distraction from daily worries.
Working on puzzles socially also provides opportunities for conversation and collaboration, fostering a sense of connection and community.

How do brain games help the elderly?

Brain games are important for older adults because they provide a fun and accessible way to maintain cognitive health. They aren’t a guaranteed cure-all, but they're a safe and enjoyable way to keep minds active and potentially improve functioning.

Here's what regular brain training can do for an older person:

Boost dopamine and memory

Brain games can stimulate the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with reward, motivation and memory consolidation. Studies suggest that engaging in puzzles or strategic games may improve short-term memory and executive function. This works by strengthening the connections between brain cells involved in learning and recall.

Boost mood

Completing a brain game can be rewarding. The sense of accomplishment can boost mood and combat feelings of stress or anxiety. The focused concentration required by some games can also be a form of mindfulness, offering a calming distraction from daily worries.

Improve cognitive flexibility

Many brain games require players to adapt strategies and shift their thinking patterns. This can promote cognitive flexibility, the ability to adjust to new situations and problem-solve effectively. Maintaining cognitive flexibility is important for navigating the complexities of daily life.

Stimulating and fun games for the elderly

Independent games for elderly people

●    Crossword puzzles: A classic brain teaser that challenges vocabulary, spelling and general trivia knowledge. They come in various difficulty levels.
●    Sudoku: A logic-based puzzle game where players fill in a grid with numbers so each row, column and subgrid contains numbers one through nine.
●    Jigsaw puzzles: A game of connecting pieces to make one big picture. Improve visual-spatial reasoning and problem-solving skills. They come in a variety of sizes and difficulty levels.
●    Word search: A game where you test vocabulary and improve scanning skills by finding hidden words listed in various directions within a grid of letters.
●    Online trivia: Online websites and apps where you test your knowledge and learn new things in a fun and engaging way. 
Partner games for elderly people
●    Chess: A strategy game for two players that challenges planning, problem-solving and critical thinking skills.
●    Checkers: A simpler strategy board game than chess, but still requires planning and critical thinking.
●    Scrabble: A word game where two to four players score points by placing letter tiles on a board to form words, testing vocabulary and spelling skills.
●    Dominoes: A tile-based game where players try to score points by matching the ends of their dominoes with those already played. Many variations exist, but all are fun and easy to learn.
Group games for elderly people
●    Bingo: A classic game of chance perfect for large groups. Players mark off numbers on their cards as a caller calls them out. The first player to mark off all the numbers wins. 
●    Cards: Many different card games can be enjoyed by groups, such as bridge, canasta and euchre. These games are great for socialising, having fun and improving cognitive skills like memory and concentration.
●    Trivial pursuit: A board game that tests players' knowledge of various topics. Players move around the board by answering trivia questions correctly. The first player to collect all six wedges and answer a final question correctly wins.
●    Charades: An acting game where players take turns acting out a movie, TV show or book for their teammates to guess. 

The importance of games and puzzles for the elderly

Puzzles and games aren't just fun activities for older adults; they're vital tools for maintaining cognitive health and overall wellbeing. By engaging the mind in stimulating activities, these games can strengthen memory, improve problem-solving skills and boost mood. The social aspect of many games provides opportunities for connection and shared enjoyment, combating feelings of isolation and loneliness.
At Estia Health, we understand the importance of cognitive stimulation and social interaction for our residents. That's why we incorporate games and activities into our daily programs. Our residents can enjoy everything from bingo to crafts.

If you're looking for an aged care community that prioritises mental and social wellbeing, contact Estia Health at 1300 682 833.