As we age, we may lose our ability to remember details and events easily. It can be frustrating, even frightening, when we can’t remember things that are important to us. Often when we think about memory loss, we can’t help but think of Alzheimer’s disease. The risk of Alzheimer’s disease doubles every five years after age 65. While there is no cure for this disease, you can keep your brain healthy by living an active life.
What better way to keep your brain active than with fun and games? Games challenge your problem-solving skills and encourage you to think creatively. They can also provide you with enjoyable social interactions. Engaging our brains is essential at any age, and when we get older, doing so can boost memory and strengthen cognitive skills. Learn more about the benefits of games for seniors.
Inside Our Brain
Our brain contains billions of neurons that fire messages across synapses every second. These messages allow us to process our surroundings and react to situations. Over time, connections between synapses weaken, limiting our ability to store and remember information. Luckily, our brains are not static. We can change our thinking because our brains have one remarkable characteristic: plasticity.
When we learn something new, like how to ride a bike, our brain creates neural pathways. If we keep practicing, we get better and better at riding a bike because the neural pathways get stronger. If you haven’t ridden a bike in years, hopping back on may take more time than it once did. The phrase “if you don’t use it, you lose it” may hold some truth. Neural pathways weaken when we no longer use them. We can strengthen our brains by being active and continuing to challenge ourselves.
Games Engage Your Mind
Inactive lifestyles require a lower level of cognitive functioning, which can decrease our brain’s ability to do the things it once did. Games are one way to engage your mind and rebuild lost neural pathways, which can affect our ability to remember information.
You can get your neurons firing with classic games like word searches and crosswords. These types of games require your brain to think critically and associate clues with words from your vocabulary. Word puzzles are easy to access. Often puzzles can be found in your local newspaper. You can find free word games online, or try the New York Times Crossword app on your smartphone.
The classic strategy game, Sudoku, has been challenging our brains since 1979. With this number puzzle, your mind must use its logic and problem-solving skills to fill rows with the numbers one through nine. Each row must have all nine numbers, and each box must have all nine, too. This game puts your strategic thinking skills to use.
You can also play games designed to improve your memory. Classic games like Bop It! and Concentration require you to remember and repeat patterns. Trivia games ask you to recall details about people, places, and events. In a Cambridge University study, people who played an online pattern game for two hours a week improved their day to day memory when tested.
There are several free memory games for seniors available online. Apps can help you practice memory-strengthening skills right from your smartphone. You don’t have to limit your play to games solely meant for building memory. Playing games, no matter the type, keep your brain on its toes.
Games Connect You With Friends
Social interaction is crucial to the health of your brain. A study from Harvard University’s School of Public Health found that seniors with a busy social life may experience a slower rate of memory decline. In another study, researchers from Georgetown University found evidence that seniors with extensive social circles may be less likely to develop dementia.
Games can help you build relationships with friends and family. Strategic board games like chess and Monopoly require you to play with other people. You’ll use logic and creativity to get the edge on your opponents while benefiting from a worthwhile social interaction.
Today, it’s easier than ever to connect with others. Online video games allow you to interact with people from anywhere in the world. You can play a video game with your grandchildren or a close friend, even if they live several states away. Video games encourage you to think for yourself. Using a controller can also improve your motor skills and reaction time.
Games Can Teach You Something New
Our brains love to learn. When our brains are intellectually engaged, we decrease our chances of memory loss. Feed your brain the mental fuel it craves with an educational game. Trivia games can boost your pop culture knowledge, and word puzzles can expose you to a new vocabulary. Apps like Duolingo, Memrise, and MindSnacks can teach you new languages in a fun, game-like format. Whether you’re a fan of classic Sudoku or Lumosity’s Memory Match, you’ll be treating your brain each time you play. Just remember to switch it up now and then!
Are you a Scrabble aficionado or a hardcore card player?
You’ll fit right in with us! At Culpepper Place, you’ll be able to exercise your mind while building strong connections with others. Contact us today to learn more about our assisted living community in Olive Branch, MS.