Digital and Trend-Forward Games for Seniors13 minute read

13 minute read

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Updated for December, 2018

Keeping your mind active via games and play is important for people at all stages of life, but it is particularly important for seniors. As you age, you become more prone to issues that affect your physical health and your emotional wellbeing, so it’s important for seniors to be proactive in finding activities that inject vitality and joy into their lives while also improving their brain function.

senior playing with VR headset

Medical research shows that keeping your mind active as you age is just as important to your overall health as maintaining your physical fitness. As we get older, our mental health plays a vital role in our ability to live independently, so it’s important to seek out ways to challenge yourself and exercise your brain on a daily basis to ensure that it is functioning at its best for a longer period of time.

While there is still a lot of research that needs to be done, scientific studies continue to show that having fun, being active, and challenging your brain on a regular basis have a plethora of benefits, which include:

Improved Brain Function

It doesn’t require a huge time commitment to reap the positive health benefits of brain boosting games and exercises. Studies show that spending just 5 minutes a day on games, puzzles, and brain training exercises could significantly improve and protect cognitive ability. By dedicating as much time as you can to exercising your brain, you can maximize the results, which include improved memory, reasoning, information processing, and delaying the symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Improve Mental and Emotional Wellbeing

Living independently sometimes comes at a cost in that it can lead to loneliness and isolation. As we age, we are more vulnerable to issues like depression and anxiety, and being alone may intensify these feelings. Playing games and finding more moments of joy can improve your mental health.

Extend Your Life and Improve Physical Vitality

Physical activities are among the most popular for seniors. In addition to improving your physical strength, these activities release endorphins which promote happiness. Engaging in fun, playful activities can help boost your immune system, minimize pain, lower blood pressure, and reduce your risk for illness.

Traditional games like Bingo, Crossword puzzles, and Scrabble are a great way for seniors to exercise their brains, but it’s important to find fresh and inspiring ways to keep your mind active. The possibilities are endless and a lot of them are free or low cost.

Engaging in games and playful activities can improve memory, daily life skills, cognitive ability, and emotional wellbeing. To maximize the benefits, your brain needs to be challenged every day. That’s why it is important to find activities that speak to your individual interests and capabilities. Fortunately, there are a host of ways to keep your mind active that are fun and easy to enjoy anywhere, by anyone.

Here are some ideas that will hopefully get you inspired:

There are a number of apps and computer programs that have been designed solely for the purpose of increasing brain function. If you have access to a computer, smartphone, or large-screen tablet, these apps are available on nearly all platforms.

While technology may be intimidating for some, these apps are designed so that even the least tech savvy individuals can interact with them in an easy-to-understand and stress-free way. Online games are easy to find, quick to access, and fun to play.

One of the benefits of engaging in digital games is that most of them record your progress over time, so you have an actual account of your improvement, which leads to a sense of accomplishment. Also, these apps are designed to be visually exciting and engaging, so you are likely to engage with them more often.

Here are some of the most popular brain training apps:

  • Lumosity
  • Peak
  • Elevate
  • Cognito
  • Fit Brains Trainer
  • Memorado
  • Eidetic

Researchers at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London have shown that online brain training games not only improve memory and thinking skills, but also how well elderly adults function in their everyday tasks like cooking, shopping, and managing their finances.

You can start seeing results pretty quickly. A recent study showed that seniors who completed brain training exercises on a daily basis for only 5 to 6 weeks saw improvement in their cognitive abilities and the effects lasted for at least 5 years.

While brain training isn’t a sure-fire way to prevent Alzheimer’s, it may delay symptoms and keep your mind working better for longer. Mental activity before the onset of Alzheimer’s helps bolster the brain therefore delaying mental decline as you age.

Stimulating activities can help people with Alzheimer’s by encouraging self-expression, fostering emotional connections, reducing anxiety, and stirring up positive memories.

Research shows that brain games can be effective in delaying the onset of dementia in older adults. However, there are plenty of fun, stimulating games for those already suffering. Seek out games that offer social interaction and include an appropriate amount of mental stimulation –that may slow cognitive decline.

Stimulating activities can help people with Alzheimer’s by encouraging self-expression, fostering emotional connections, reducing anxiety, and stirring up positive memories. AARP.org explains the importance of finding meaningful activities, not just ones that fill time. Consider what your loved one enjoyed in the past and make adjustments to ensure that these activities are safe and free of frustration for them now. Some activities to consider include:

  • Prepare simple recipes
  •  Household organization and cleaning
  •  Look at books or create a photo box
  • Read the newspaper
  • Tend a garden or visit a botanical garden
  • Play music and sing songs
  • Watch family videos or create a memory box

Crafting can also be a great way for seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia to keep their hands busy and produce familiar motions that reduce anxiety and calm nerves. These may include things like knitting with large gauge needles or painting.

If your loved one resists an activity or becomes agitated, take a break and modify the activity in a way that will make it more enjoyable for them. Focus on making sure the process is fun without worrying about results. The good news is that with a little imagination, the possibilities are endless and most of them are free or very low cost.

Video games are also becoming increasingly popular for seniors who suffer from dementia. More complicated games will be too difficult to master and will lead to frustration, but a simple puzzle game like Tetris is appropriately stimulating and easy to play. Conduct an online search to find other video games geared towards older adults and swap out some TV time for a more engaging alternative.