Keeping the mind active, engaged and challenged is important at any stage of life – and this learning process shouldn’t stop just because you age. If you’re looking for a fun way to reduce and even slow the negative mental decline that comes with ageing, look no further than these brain games for people of all ages and abilities.
(And yes – while frequent forgetfulness or noticeable memory loss may be a warning sign of Alzheimer’s disease, it’s worth noting that some level of forgetfulness is a normal part of ageing).
Fun and interactive online games
Braingle is your go-to for solving puzzles, brushing up on trivia, playing games and giving your brain a mental workout. It’s a great tab to save, so you can fire up those synapses whenever the urge takes hold. From Star Trek quizzes to mental-robics (daily brain exercises) to chess and sudoku, there’s something for everyone.
AKA,‘the online gym for your brain’. If you’re multilingual or learning another language, you can easily switch the language setting to Dutch, Spanish, French, Portuguese or German. According to the site, 10 minutes a day is all it takes to keep your brain in shape. The graphics are also pretty cool!
Free apps for Android and iOS
Here are 5 free smartphone and tablet-friendly apps to try:
NeuroNation focuses on pain points like weaker memory, dwindling concentration or thinking too slowly, and believes that just 15 minutes of training a day will do the trick.
Fun fact: In Germany, NeuroNation is reimbursed by several German health insurers, and is also used for stress and burnout prevention.
Meet Lumosity, where games are designed to help improve memory, attention, flexibility, speed of processing and problem solving.
Fun fact: There have been more than 20 peer-reviewed publications in academic journals using Lumosity games or assessments.
Elevate users get a personalised training program. Choose from 40+ games, all designed to boost productivity and self-confidence in skills like maths, reading, writing, speaking and recall.
Fun fact: Elevate has been crowned Apple’s App of the Year in the United States.
If you need a small push to meet goals, Peak has Coach – your personal trainer for your mind. Coach will challenge you with new workouts, track your progress and show you how to improve. It’s daily motivation at your fingertips.
Fun fact: The people at Peak work with scientists studying the impact of video games from world renowned universities like Cambridge, Yale, UCL and King’s College London.
CogniFit is designed to help boost short-term memory and improve focus, concentration, processing speed, reaction time and more.
Fun fact: Access guided mindfulness techniques that can benefit your mental health.
A note on paid apps
Sometimes, even small things like emailing an app for a small refund or getting a hold of customer service can prove difficult for older (or tech challenged) people, so if you’re helping someone out, try to download the apps for or with them to avoid unexpected charges. (Like after free trials, for example).
Puzzles of all kinds
This is your general crosswords, cryptic crosswords, Scrabble, Wordle – the lot. Or, for a board game that everyone can enjoy, whip out the Scrabble from the games cupboard and make a night out of it! Finally, for some quick fun, try The New York Times’ wildly popular game, Wordle.
Sudoku for seniors
Sudoku is another great logic puzzle to try. It’s a great option for people of all ages and improves brain health in a number of ways (pardon the pun), like reducing stress and anxiety and promoting a sense of accomplishment. The beauty of it? There are difficulty levels ranging from easy to tricky, so you’re bound to meet your match.
Did you know that the term ‘jigsaw’ comes from the special saw – a jigsaw – that was used to cut the puzzles? These are the physical puzzles many of us know and love – the ones that sometimes have hundreds or even thousands of small pieces that are cut into various shapes and fit together to form a picture.
Jigsaw puzzles are an excellent solo or group activity, and like painting, knitting, or even cooking, the process of completing one can be quite meditative and relaxing.
There are plenty of sites and apps that offer trivia and quizzes, but have you ever planned your very own trivia night? If you’re a carer, you can organise one for the person you provide care for. Trivia is not only fun, but it also exercises the brain’s frontal cortex – the part of the brain responsible for memory function, and this in turn can help to improve cognitive skills and problem-solving abilities.
Consider this your sign to create a recurring trivia event! Invite friends or family, and make a day or night out of it.
- Remember the golden rule of brain games – they should be challenging enough, but not too challenging so as to frustrate the gamer.
- Experts also say that for these brain connections to be sustainable long-term, the chosen activity should be of interest to the person. After all, motivation is the driving force behind human actions, and if you’re excited to complete your 5+ minutes a day, you’re more likely to do it!
Whether an older adult favours a crossword or sudoku puzzle book, or they’d rather get stuck into some brain games or mental exercises on their smartphone, tablet, or computer – all fit the brain stimulation bill. Studies have shown that even 5 minutes per day spent on brain boosting puzzles or games (at any age) is enough to significantly increase mental wellbeing, so if you’re looking to improve your memory and problem-solving skills (or you’re researching for someone you know), it’s time to fire up those neurons and get your game face on.