Nov 1, 2018 4 min read

The Cognitive Benefits of Puzzles and Brain Games for Seniors

Updated: Nov 16, 2018

Enjoy today's amazing article from our guest Blog writer - Karen Weeks.


If you’re of the opinion that puzzles are a trivial pursuit, think again -- research has shown that people who regularly engage in mentally stimulating activities stand a better chance of avoiding memory and cognitive problems in their senior years. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that adults age 70 and over who engage in mentally stimulating activities at least twice a week are less likely to suffer from cognitive impairment four years later than individuals who did not stay mentally active. Of course, doing puzzles is just one form of mental engagement that can help seniors stave off the mental effects of aging. There are many enjoyable ways to keep your cognitive processes sharp.


Learn a Language

If you tried to learn French in school but couldn’t handle all those heavy phonetics, why not give it another shot. Or, maybe try a different language. Whatever you choose, learning a foreign language benefits your brainin multiple ways. It’s a mentally complex pursuit that challenges your learning skills in ways that are unlike anything else. A Penn State University research studyrevealed that learning a language alters the structure of your brain and makes it work more efficiently. And being able to communicate with people in another language can create a strong sense of accomplishment. If you’re not into spending money on a class or buying a lot of expensive DVD sets, check out Duolingo, a free online resource for learning the language of your choice, from Mandarin and Cantonese to Spanish and Welsh.


Good Nutrition

Following a healthy diet will provide the nutrition you need and help keep your mental processes strong. If you are a homebound senior, smartphone technology has made it easy to eat healthy. You can reach out and have groceries delivered to your front door, or prepare shopping lists to share with loved ones. Some seniors also take advantage of meal delivery services that bring meals with healthy ingredients directly to them.



The internet and social media may have contributed to a decline in the number of people who read books -- actual books with chapters and pages -- but it’s still one of the very best ways to strengthen your brain and fortify it against the effects of the aging process. It’s highly stimulating to the imagination and activates the senses in ways nothing else can. There’s nothing quite like getting lost in a story that captivates and involves your mind totally. If sitting down and reading a book is difficult for you, try listening to books on DVD or join a book group. It’s a great way to meet new friends and discuss stories you can enjoy with others.



Jigsaw puzzles may call to mind memories of your great aunt whiling away endless hours at the kitchen table. It may have looked like a boring waste of time, but researchers say otherwise. A jigsaw puzzle challenges the mind on both a micro and macro level, creating new neural pathways and strengthening critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. Sudoku, word jumbles, and crossword puzzles benefit the brain in much the same way. It’s a fun way to spend your leisure time, and you’ll reap the benefits as grow older.



The Cognitive Benefits of Puzzles and Brain Games for Seniors
The Cognitive Benefits of Puzzles and Brain Games for Seniors

Getting Smart with Your Smartphone

If old school puzzles aren’t your thing, why not give some of the many smartphone apps available today a try? Cognifit, Lumosity, and Brain Trainer Special are specifically designed to challenge and stimulate you intellectually, and you can do it anywhere thanks to smartphone technology. If you’d like to try it but aren’t comfortable using apps, dial up a young relative who can help get you set up and might enjoy playing along with you.

There are many fun ways to engage your brain, whether you prefer a traditional pen-and-paper puzzle format or something more modernistic. Even a couple times a week will make a marked difference in your long-term cognitive abilities and memory retention as you grow older.

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