Studies on preventing Alzheimer’s and related Dementia have shown “encouraging, but inconclusive results” related to cognitive training. This means that staying mentally active “could” help reduce the risk of developing Dementia, but that it is no guarantee of prevention.
Very specific computer-based Cognitive Training may help, however, this may not be practical for everyone depending on their circumstances. Since we recently celebrated National Train Your Brain Day on October 13th, here are a few cognitively stimulating activities to help you and your senior loved one Train Your Brains.
Chances are that you’ve heard of Sudoku before. But did you know that the number-based puzzle originated in a Japanese newspaper back in 1984? The concept is easy to learn, but tricky to master. Each row, column and large square must contain the numbers 1-9 without repeating any numbers.
Interested in learning more? Check out Sudoku.com for an intro to this classic game – complete with notes, hints, and a mistake checker. Not that we’ve ever used that before…
If you prefer picturesque landscapes over numbers, we’ve got a resource for you! Jigsaw Explorer is a great site for online jigsaw puzzles, which are a good way to help with retention and memory. Referencing the box, or completed image, and then finding the right pieces and their position in space activates short-term memory and recall.
Or if you’re a professional puzzler looking for a real challenge, test your skills against a 3D puzzle like this one. And if you want to puzzle on-the-go Block! Hexa Puzzle is a fun way to practice spatial awareness through increasingly difficult odd-shaped puzzles. No matter the dimensions, Puzzles can help with staying mentally active. Just make sure you don’t lose any pieces.
Memory and Matching Games
Depending on the cognitive ability of your loved one, Memory and Matching games might be an appropriate fit. There are multiple options available online like, Match The Memory, which offers both picture matching to words and phrases, as well as words/titles matching to descriptions. You can even create your own Matching Game using your own pictures and videos on the site.
Prefer physical cards over using a computer? Try making your own matching game with photos of family members and friends. Print out photos of close loved ones, along with cards that include the names that correspond for each. This can also be a fun way to reminisce with loved ones about their favorite memories, road trips, or impactful life events. Family Photo Albums are great places to pull from to create truly meaningful matching games.
There are many critically acclaimed Crossword Puzzles out there, the most notoriously difficult of which is the New York Times Crossword. If you’re not quite ready to take on the NYT, consider the USA Today Crossword Puzzle, which is available for free online. This puzzle is moderately difficult and would be great for those just getting into the puzzle scene.
If hints are needed, there are options to reveal a single letter, a single word, or even the whole puzzle. Try going through without any help – no Googling allowed either – and see how many clues you can complete. To get the most out of your Crossword Puzzle, set a time limit, or try a harder difficulty to test your skills.
In a previous blog post, we shared some resources for Bookworms, along with a bit about how Reading can help you stay mentally active. Well, for those who prefer to write over reading, we have great news! Writing is also a great way to help your brain stay active.
Creative writing utilizes multiple areas in the brain – typically engaging more areas for casual writers compared to experts. Both the left and right hemispheres are engaged in casual writers, with the left hemisphere focused around language and specific words, whereas the right hemisphere takes a broad-strokes approach and views the imagery and “larger picture”. Check out this review article on Medium, breaking down some of the concepts explored in this 2011 NIH-supported study.
Slowing Cognitive Decline
Classic games like Connect Four and Chess are also great ways to practice forward-thinking and engage your brain. Trying to outsmart your opponent by evaluating multiple scenarios and always thinking 3-steps – or more – ahead, helps promote brain growth. Start slowing and preventing cognitive decline by engaging your brain early and often. In the case, the best defense is consistent cognitive stimulation and development to help against later decline.
For more information on slowing and Preventing Cognitive Decline, check out the informative video below from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM):