When people experience dementia and Alzheimer’s, their brain health deteriorates. While you cannot prevent the disease, you can take steps to slow the symptoms and strengthen your brain by keeping it active. One of the best ways to exercise your brain is to play games.
Here we share some of the best games for anyone concerned about the risks of dementia.
1. Crossword Puzzles
Crossword puzzles are ideal for people worried about dementia because several sections of the brain must fire in order for people to complete them. First, people exercise the portion of the brain responsible for recall. You discover and remember information when working out the puzzles, and some puzzles take days to complete and force the player to create long-term memories. Crossword puzzles also spark the reasoning and problem-solving areas of the brain, which are the first parts that become damaged when people develop dementia. By keeping these parts of the brain active, you promote healthy nerves.
2. Complete Jigsaw Puzzles
Studies show that people who participate in activities that are intellectually stimulating are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s than those who don’t. While jigsaw puzzles aren’t necessarily traditional games, they keep the brain active while people work to solve them. Jigsaw puzzles promote hand-eye coordination, encourage problem-solving, and require people to use spatial reasoning in order to solve them. All of these areas of the brain get exercise while you complete a puzzle.
3. Computerized Brain Games
While the research is not yet solid, scientists are working to uphold a study that found computerised brain training programs reduce the risk of dementia among healthy people by 48%. The 10-year study found that 10 hours of training boosted people’s reasoning and speed of processing abilities. Additional research found that people who engaged in games for speed training had a 33% lower risk of dementia and people who had more than 10 speed training sessions had a 48% lower risk of developing dementia. The program is available as part of BrainHQ.com.
4. Card Games
While you may enjoy playing cards because it gives you time to socialise with friends, you may not be aware of the many brain-boosting benefits of playing card games. First, playing cards with others does exercise your brain because social interaction helps maintain mental health and wards off dementia and Alzheimer’s. Studies show that social interaction has several positive impacts on seniors, from reducing the risk of depression to reducing the risk of dementia and delaying cognitive impairment.
So, which card game should you play to reduce the risk of dementia? Basically, any one you want! Card games require strategy, problem-solving, and mental arithmetic, and statistical reasoning, all of which boost the brain. Cards also require you to pay attention, know which cards have been played, and be able to recognise the tells your fellow card players have. Learning a new card game also exercises the brain because you are doing a new activity that requires discovery and recall, and you have to use long-term memory if you play it again in the future.
Bingo is always a favourite, and the good news is there are mental benefits associated with playing it. The traditional form of Bingo is complex enough, with letters and numbers and patterns, to give the brain a good workout each time someone plays it. And of course, the opportunity to socialise that tends to go alongside Bingo also benefits older people who are concerned about their risk of dementia.
But, if people have difficulty recalling numbers and letters because their dementia or Alzheimer’s is progressing, they can play adapted versions of the game and benefit from the mental stimulation in other ways. Adapted forms of Bingo for instance such as Rainbow Bingo use visual cue cards that can aid memory. Those in the more advanced stages of dementia could match large, coloured chips to a matching coloured circle on their playing card for example.
While researchers continue to seek ways to prevent and cure dementia and Alzheimer’s, we can help protect our brains from deterioration by staying active and participating in games that stimulate the brain in beneficial ways. Complete crossword and jigsaw puzzles, play computerised brain games, gather with friends to play cards, and go to Bingo nights to help reduce your risk of dementia.
Guest article by George Mears.
George is a brain fitness expert, educator, and counsellor. One of his primary areas of study is neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to change and improve over one’s lifetime.