Senior Activities: Stimulating Mind and Brain Games for Seniors
Recent attitudes and studies regarding the benefits of stimulating mind and brain games has led to research that indicates various forms of dementia can be slowed by stimulating brain activities.
Games involving acuity, concentration and focus enhance the brain's capability to utilize and stimulate brain cells, electrical connections and keep neural pathways open and functioning.
Games such as card games, playing board games and brain teasers, including logic puzzles, crossword puzzles, and the most popular Sudoku, are recommended and encouraged by geriatric care providers to maintain and engage mental functions, cognitive function skills that involve reasoning, problem solving, memory, information processing and concentration.
However, finding the perfect game for your elderly parent requires a bit of diligence, understanding and knowledge of your parent’s cognitive skills and abilities. For example, your parent may like jigsaw puzzles but display disinterest or grow impatient with math puzzles such as Sudoku, while others prefer challenging crossword puzzles. Still others may enjoy working mathematical problems, while some find them too challenging and frustrating.
Depending on your parent's current mental functional state, attitudes, age, and medical condition, finding stimulating games for your parent involves discussion with his or her health care provider, finding out what your parent likes or dislikes, and a willingness to compromise and experiment with different types of games that will help keep him or her engaged in enjoyable activities.
Believe it or not, many elderly parents love to play a variety of games that don't involve a pencil and a piece of paper. For example, many seniors enjoy playing games that include group interaction such as bingo, charades, trivial pursuit, card games, and exercise games. Actually, one of the most popular games to make an appearance in many long-term care facilities around the country is the Nintendo Wii.
This game combines mental and physical activity that offers diverse and entertaining games that cater to a variety of age groups, capabilities, and attention spans.
Puzzles such as jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles, Sudoku and mathematical games focus attention on concentration and memory. Such stimulation to brain cells encourages neuron pathways to continually develop and grow despite cell damage caused by aging, medications, and medical conditions. Games like bingo provide elderly parents with interaction with others as well as enhanced hand-eye coordination, concentration and logical and listening skills that help maintain focus and attention.
The key idea behind mentally stimulating games is to slow down the degeneration of neurotransmitters and to increase growth of new brain cells. Contrary to popular opinion, brain cells do develop and grow during every stage of development; from birth until the day we die. Stimulating the brain to continually learn new skills, tasks and activities is one of the best ways to keep the mind active, healthy and strong, regardless of physical condition and capabilities.
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Regardless of which games you choose for your elderly parent, it’s essential to make sure that your parent is able to function with such games. For example, depending on your parent's mental acuity and state of health, you may decide that board games may provide more mental stimulation and enjoyment than social mental games such as charades or trivia.
Some seniors prefer solitary games such as crossword puzzles, math games, or independent mind games, while others blossom and shine in group play such as bingo.
However, keep in mind that any game, whether solitary or group based, will provide benefits.
Games for individuals suffering from dementia or Alzheimer's may benefit from those that utilize calm interaction with others, often combined with music. Such individuals also often enjoy mental games that require simple sorting activities.
The bottom line is to use it or lose it. Whether you engage your parent or other seniors in independent or group activities, make sure that he or she is able to enjoy the benefits of card games, board games, puzzles, or group activities that will continually encourage mental stimulation, interaction, and communication with others.