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Benefit your brain

Exercising the mind to keep it active is as important as maintaining physical fitness and strength in older age. Throughout our lives, our brain is responsible for keeping us happy, and, as we get older, mental health is often a major part of being able to live independently.

To ensure that the brain works as best as it can, the mind needs to be challenged every day. Thankfully, exercising the mind can be fun and easy to do thanks to quick games, tasks and activities that can be enjoyed anywhere and by anyone.

Below are some tried and tested brain training games and activities that are especially suited for over 50s, and are sure to be fun and effective. Try them out and see what you, and your friends think!

Arts and crafts to keep the mind active and the hands nimble
It goes without saying that making things is not only a brilliant way to use imagination, but it can also help to maintain dexterity in hands and fingers whilst creating bespoke items for the home, or gifts for friends and family. Arts and crafts don’t have to be elaborate or expensive either. Why not try upcycling old photo frames with paper collage, making greeting cards from magazines or knitting items for new babies?

You can use the app called Pinterest to find inspiration, patterns, instructions and more. Read our piece on woodworking using Pinterest here

Keep the brain buzzing with word puzzles
Word puzzles are an enjoyable challenge that can get the brain buzzing and give the mind a workout. Even if not all of the conundrums in a puzzle are solved, simply trying to figure out the answer, working with other people and putting in the effort, is what makes the difference to brain health.
Challenge yourself with the example below, or find many more word puzzles online or in word puzzle books available from most stationery and book stores.

Connections game
The aim of this puzzle is to help stimulate the brain and allow it to make connections.
Here’s how to play.

In the left column, there are a pair of words. Your goal is to find a third word that is connected to or associated with both of these two words. Let’s take the first pair as an example: PIANO and LOCK. The answer is KEY. The word key is connected with both the word piano and the word lock: there are KEYS on a piano and you use a KEY to lock doors.

Now it is your turn, try out the next five:
LOCK PIANO ……key………
SHIP CARD ……………
TREE CAR ……………
SCHOOL EYE ……………
PILLOW COURT ……………
RIVER MONEY ……………

Examples of some Apps you can find on Google Play and Apple store for word puzzles:

Bingo
Bingo is a fun and easy activity that can easily be replicated in or out of the home. Playing bingo is not only fun and stimulating, but it also has a number of health benefits. For example, it can help to stimulate three key senses: hearing (when the numbers are called), touch (using the pens to dab and holding the card), and sight. Bingo is also a great social activity that can help to reduce loneliness and increase a sense of wellbeing.

Play video games to boost the mind
Many may think video games are only for the young, but they can be a great activity for senior citizens too. Research suggests that 3D platform games such as Super Mario may be particularly good for older people since they require fast responses, forward planning and a memory of which keys to use. Computer games also require that the player learns new skills, something which can help to ensure long-term cognitive health in older people and will also bring a sense of achievement.

Some suggested games that can be fun and keep the mind active
– Bejeweled—Swap bright gems of different shapes and colours in order to form rows of matching gems, earn points, and move to the next level.
– Candy Crush Saga—Switch around colourful pieces of candy in order to form three-of-a-kind matches and reach a particular goal within a time limit or a fixed number of moves.
– Snipperclips Plus —Solve all kinds of creative puzzles in this funny game for the Nintendo Switch by interacting with various objects and cutting paper characters into different shapes.
– Gummy Drop!—Rebuild monuments around the world (virtually, of course) by solving match-three puzzles that feature vibrant gummies in different colors and shapes.
– 1-2-Switch—Face your opponent instead of the screen while you play various mini games that require you to be physically active and respond to audio cues and “rumble” feedback from the special controllers of the Nintendo Switch.
– Puyo Puyo Tetris—Quickly rotate and position falling blobs of color or shaped blocks so that they land in places that will help complete a puzzle in this game for the Nintendo Switch.
– Plants vs. Zombies 2—Grow various kinds of plants in strategic locations in order to defend your home from a horde of brain-eating zombies.
– Words With Friends 2—Challenge your friends or family to a crossword-style mobile game that’s similar to Scrabble.
– AARP’s free online games—Play a huge variety of card, puzzle, word, strategy, sports, and arcade games directly in your web browser.
– Gametable’s free online games—Enjoy easy-to-play games like checkers and tic-tac-toe on your computer or mobile device without any distracting ads.
– World of Warcraft (WoW)—Take on the role of the hero within a huge virtual universe of fantastical characters and environments as you go on an adventurous quest and interact with a massive online community of other players.
– The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim—Go on an expansive quest to defeat a world-eating dragon in this role-playing game that lets you explore its entire virtual world at your own leisure.
– Civilization—Build a virtual empire that lasts by choosing strategies related to issues like exploration, diplomacy, warfare, and technology.

Logic puzzles to help with out-of-the-box thinking
Logic puzzles are an exciting activity designed to test a person’s ability to use the information provided to them, and come up with a logical answer. Logic puzzles allow you to think outside the box, create new solutions, and can also help to solidify memories.

Logic puzzles are ideal since they enable lateral thinking and can help to fire up neural pathways that have likely been dormant since retiring. You can find logic puzzle books online, or in most good book stores, but below is an example to get you started:
Here is an image of a bus.

Can you figure out which direction the bus is travelling? Hint: the bus is either travelling left or right. This is not a trick question.

Examples of some Apps you can find on Google Play and Apple store for logic puzzles:

Jigsaw puzzles to stimulate the mind
For many, jigsaw puzzles may be the first brain training game that we play. However, as we age, we may forget how effective jigsaw puzzles are at stimulating the mind. Another benefit of puzzles is that they can help you people relax, by reducing blood pressure and slowing breathing rate. Some even see jigsaw puzzles as a kind of meditation – ideal for people with busy minds. You can even get apps for your phone so you can do digital jigsaws!

Sudoku for seniors
Sudoku is a brilliant brain game for people of all ages and abilities. Simply put, Sudoku is a logic game that involves problem solving and looking for number patterns. The skills developed with this game have real-world implications by helping older adults assess the repercussions of decisions that they are faced with every day. As Sudoku is a challenge, completing puzzles can also give a great sense of accomplishment that can be hard to achieve in other activities in later life.

Seniors online Victoria have a fantastic Sudoku for Seniors page where you can play online – visit
https://www.seniorsonline.vic.gov.au/Services-Information/Games/Sudoku

Trivia games
There are an endless number of trivia topics that can be utilised for a trivia game, dependant on the group or individual with whom you are playing. Exciting topics include musicals, current affairs and history. Trivia is a fantastic way of stimulating the minds of older people whilst also having a bit of a laugh.
There are many Trivia apps you can use:

You can also find trivia quiz websites that give you daily new trivia quizzes such as:
https://lovattspuzzles.com/online-puzzles-competitions/ultimate-online-trivia-quiz/

Chess to boost planning skills
Chess has been around for centuries, but it is often overlooked as a game that can boost brain health and mental wellbeing. Chess is all about strategy, planning ahead and thinking outside the box – simply put, it is a great activity for those of all ages.

Some people may avoid chess, thinking that you have to be a genius to play, but that is not the case: amazingly, after just a few months of playing, chess can even help to boost your IQ. You can also play chess online, if alone or in need of brushing up on skills. A final benefit, which is especially helpful for older people who struggle with concentration, is that it can help to increase focus.

Serving tray game for enhancing short term memory
As we age, it can become harder to remember things. Often short-term memory is most affected by age, which can then impact day-to-day activities such as food shopping, house chores and remembering activities. It is therefore very important to test it out and challenge the brain every day.

A fun activity that can enhance short-term memory is “the tray game”. Find a serving tray and a selection of random items from around the house. Place the items on the tray and have a look at the items, before then covering them with a cloth. Then ask those who are playing to recall all of the items – see who can remember the most.

Volunteering
No matter how old an individual, or how capable they are, there are volunteering activities for everyone – from reading with children, to caring for animals, and helping in charity shops. Not only does volunteering allow individuals to make a difference in the world – it also changes them in surprising ways! In addition to feelings of wellbeing, volunteering can reduce social isolation, and allow new skills to be developed. A quick search online will highlight just how many volunteering opportunities there are for older people.

The card matching game
The card matching game is a great activity to increase memory skills in all ages. It can be played alone or with a group of friends. All that is needed is a pack of cards and a table. The cards are laid face down and then when a player takes their turn, they flip over two cards together. If the cards match, they keep the pair and continue their go, looking for more matches. If they are unsuccessful, the next player has the turn. The winner is the individual with the most correctly matched pairs.

Fun and functional party games
We all love to party and celebrate, no matter what age we are. Some party games can become difficult with age, but there are many games that are both enjoyable and can boost the skills required to live happily and healthily into older age.

Partners in Pen is an excellent crafty party game that only requires a pen and some paper. A group is split into pairs with person one has a pen and some paper, and the person two having a list or bag of items. Person two then goes on to describe an object and person one must draw it. The aim of the game is for person one to guess what they are drawing before the image is complete. A great game for creative thinkers.

Stay sharp with combined physical and mental training
For older adults who are still active, dancing can be a healthy activity that also challenges the brain thanks to having to learn new steps and routines. Dancing is also a therapeutic pastime that can reduce social isolation, increase relaxation and decrease blood pressure.

Heighten mental skills with a brain training app
You can download brain training apps straight to a mobile or tablet to enable people to train their brain whenever and wherever they want. These apps are useful to improve visual-spatial skills, problem-solving and concentration.

There are a lot of apps available, ranging from really simple word-connection games to more complex apps with more than 60 different games and activities. Many of the apps are free and easy to use. A couple of great options include:

Never too old to learn a new language
Our brain ages as we do, but it is possible to enhance brain health and reduce the impacts of aging by challenging it. Learning a new language is one of the best ways to do that. As well as language classes in community centres, there are also language classes online, and audio books available to loan from libraries.

Learning a language is best done with friends, making it a great activity for enhancing sociality. Some may be put off by the challenge of a new language, but learning just a few words will get the cogs turning and enhance mental health.

Duolingo has become hugely popular during the Covid-19 quarantining and self-isolation period. You can visit https://www.duolingo.com/ to learn a new language for FREE

You can also download the app:
Sources:
https://play.google.com/store
https://supercarers.com/blog/games-for-elderly/
https://lovattspuzzles.com/online-puzzles-competitions/ultimate-online-trivia-quiz/
https://www.seniorsonline.vic.gov.au/Services-Information/Games/Sudoku