CogniFit

45+ Exciting Games For Seniors To Help Stimulate The Brain

Chess, Monopoly, Scrabble, Go fish—and once upon a time, I bet most of you were addicted to Candy Crush. Games are not solely a form of childhood amusement. In fact, even senior citizens reap the benefits of having fun. Games for seniors improve cognitive skills, stimulates the brain to prevent dementia, and provides socialization for healthy well-being.  

Games for seniors can help keep the mind young. Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

The Aging Brain: Cognitive Skills During Senior Adulthood

The brain consists of two types of gray and white matter. White matter tissue is home to specialized cells called neurons and the nerve fibers known as axons. The axons are encapsulated with myelin—a fatty sheath that facilitates the exchange of chemical messages throughout the nervous system. Learning and various other brain functions are possible because white matter allows communication between different areas of the brain.

As an individual ages, overall brain volume decreases, especially the amount of white matter. This leaves the elderly prone to memory loss, as well as a decline in other cognitive skills like attention. These subtle changes in white matter are considered normal. However, a more pronounced loss or damage to white matter is associated with diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Researchers (Liu, 2017) have found that an older brain is susceptible to lesions, cerebral bleeding, and disease.

The Benefits of Games For Seniors

The benefits of games for seniors are vast. With the sharp reduction in brain matter during the aging process, playing games strengthens neural connections in the brain. As the brain grows stronger, it can regenerate those damaged connections in the white matter. They are less likely to become affected by disease. The New England Journal of Medicine documents studies reflecting a decreased incidence of dementia in seniors who partake in board games and card games as leisure activities.

Games are also beneficial for mental health. Playing games that are enjoyable increases feelings of happiness. Additionally, games typically involve multiple players which foster the opportunity for socialization and forming friendships that boost mood.

Online Games For Seniors

Most seniors are not known for being computer savvy. Still, research proves that 38% of adults over the age of 50 play video games. Whether online through a laptop or desktop computer, a gaming console, or a smart phone application, virtual games are helpful for repetition of tasks focused on cognitive abilities.

Card games For Seniors

Card games are a classic! Cards are inexpensive, do not require extra tools or equipment, and they encourage socialization because they involve multiple people to play. For seniors, card games stimulate the brain by testing the player’s strategy and chance.

Number Games For Seniors

Paying bills, shopping, measuring ingredients while cooking—numbers are frequently applied to everyday tasks. Games that involve numbers refine math skills in ways more fun than calculating tedious equations.

Word Games For Seniors

Word games challenge vocabulary, spelling, grammar, and communication by testing logic and reasoning. The brain is fully engaged, as games involving words strengthen the connections in both the right and the left side of the brain.

Board Games For Seniors

Board games are a popular form of entertainment for seniors. The majority of board games can be played sitting down, which is optimal for those with mobility concerns, and the rules can be modified to accommodate physical challenges. Board games are versatile, as the object of the games differ to target a variety of cognitive abilities. Including at least two players, studies report evidence of board games reducing the occurrence of depression in the elderly population.

Physical Activity Games For Seniors

Exercise is an important part of maintaining physical and mental health. Being that seniors are prone to medical complications, physical activity is crucial to their health routine. Lifting weights, walking, or doing repeated reps of body weight exercises is tedious for some. Instead, physical activity games allow seniors to reach their allotment of physical exercise that incorporates their hobbies or interests. Research even shows “physically active older adults showed greater increases in white matter volume” (Colcombe, 2006).

Common games involving physical activity that are appropriate for seniors providing they receive medical clearance from their physician. These include activities such as golf, dance, badminton, tennis, crochet, frisbee, horseshoes, shuffleboard, whiffle ball, and swimming.

Craft Games For Seniors

Seniors like an outlet to express their creativity. While card games, board games, and virtual games are enjoyable, they are limited in artistry. Crafting triggers the brain to release dopamine, which creates feelings of happiness and initiates the process of building new neurons in the brain to fight the effects of aging. Physicians who are published in the American Journal of Public Health have introduced crafting to patients with dementia and have had memory improvements of up to 70 percent!

Basic crafts like painting, sewing, knitting, are great. Consider unique crafts like constructing and decorating a birdhouse, jewelry making, designing greeting cards for friends or other loved ones, or scrapbooking to preserve cherished memories.

Group games for seniors. Photo by Şahin Sezer Dinçer from Pexels

Group Games For Seniors

Many board and card games are multiple players, which encourages group or team cooperation. However, there are games that are played in much larger groups than the usual game of cards. This socialization is needed to keep their minds sharp through intellectual conversations with peers. Seniors with consistent, active social lives are generally less anxious, are not as likely to develop depression, and a have higher self-esteem than seniors who remain isolated.

Memory Games For Seniors

Out of all of the cognitive skills, memory is the skill most effected by aging. Playing games that focus on memory tasks specifically reducing the extent of memory loss. Seniors with dementia especially benefit from games targeting memory.

Resources

Colcombe, S. J., Erickson, K. I., Scalf, P. E., Kim, J. S., Prakash, R., McAuley, E., et al. (2006). Aerobic exercise training increases brain volume in aging humans. J. Gerontol. A Biol. Sci. Med. Sci. 61, 1166–1170. doi: 10.1093/gerona/61.11.1166

Liu, H., Yang, Y., Xia, Y., Zhu, W., Leak, R. K., Wei, Z., Wang, J., & Hu, X. (2017). Aging of cerebral white matter. Ageing research reviews34, 64–76. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.arr.2016.11.006

Stuckey, H. L., & Nobel, J. (2010). The connection between art, healing, and public health: a review of current literature. American journal of public health100(2), 254–263. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2008.156497