If you knew there were brain games to improve memory, would you play them? While there is conflicting research about whether brain games actually sharpen our ability to recall information, many adults believe they do.
How many times have you walked into a room only to completely forget why you’re there? Or how often have you searched your house for your eyeglasses only to discover them on top of your head?
Many older adults worry about their memory and wonder how much memory loss is normal. They want to know the signs of something more serious and if there is something they can do to sharpen their memory.
There have been several studies on the advantages of playing brain games to improve memory. In 2017 a study published in the “Journal of Neuroscience” showed that brain games did not help improve the cognitive performance of adults in their 80s. However, another study from the University of Exeter and Kings College London collected data from 17,000 people and found that people in the 50-plus age group who engaged with crossword puzzles had better short-term memory.
The most profound research was connected to people who are more vulnerable to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly (ACTIVE) studied adults over the age of 65 and found that consistently practicing word puzzles, memory games, and visual recognition tasks helped improve memory. That supports the theory that keeping the mind active is key to slowing the onset of dementia.
More research needs to be done, and it may be debatable if playing a game can prevent dementia; but making your brain sharper seems like a great idea for anyone at any age.
If playing brain games can keep your mind sharp for 10 more years, specifically in reasoning skills and processing speeds, why not give it a shot? Plus, games are fun!
Here are some suggested games by The Preserve at Clearwater.
5 Brain games to improve memory
This classic two-person game uses a deck of cards. Players flip over cards to reveal matches. The player with the most matches wins. You can also find Memory game cards in any game section of a store, or you can play it online for free. This is a great game to play with your grandchildren since it’s meant for all ages. A fun twist is to make your own version using photos of your family. This works well for younger family members who live far away. Have them match up the faces of their aunts and uncles so they can learn their family tree while playing the memory game.
The board game Trivial Pursuit is timeless, and there are a variety of versions. But you don’t need to pay for a game when a simple Google search will find a number of fun lists of trivia questions. This is a great way to mix in questions about the past with questions about the present, like “Who sang ‘Jailhouse Rock?’” and “Who is the vice president?” Check out these trivia questions from the 1950s and these that test your knowledge of the 1950s-1970s.
3. The Ungame, seniors edition
The Ungame is $15 on Amazon, and this edition is designed specifically for adults in their 60s. It’s printed in large text on cards that give conversation prompts. It challenges players to think more deeply and encourages families who play together to learn more about each other.
Lumosity is a subscription-based service of cognitive tests and games that allow players to work toward specific goals in memory cognition, speed, attention, flexibility, and problem-solving skills. The developers collaborate with researchers from universities around the world. At around $4 per month, you can play it on a computer, iPhone, iPad or Android device.
5. Crossword puzzles
Crossword puzzles are everywhere! You can find them in the daily newspaper or you can buy a book of crosswords and plan to do one a day. Of course, you can also find all kinds of puzzles online that you can print for free. One fun idea is to have the original puzzler leave the clues they’re struggling with blank and then another person can take over to see if teamwork helps solve the puzzle. Just know if you choose this option you could end up with a healthy competition on your hands!
You can use these brain games to improve memory and brain function while connecting with family and friends. Choosing group games helps you bond with your loved ones.
A note about dementia
Keep in mind that forgetfulness and dementia are not the same thing. Dementia is not a normal part of aging. It includes the loss of cognitive functioning – thinking, reasoning, remembering and learning — and other behaviors to the extent that it interferes with the quality of life.
There are different forms of dementia, but Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form in adults over the age of 65.
The best thing to do is talk to your doctor to determine if your memory loss fits in the normal zone or should be investigated further.
Here are five signs from the National Institute on Aging that it might be time to talk to your doctor:
- Asking the same questions over and over again.
- Getting lost in places you know well.
- Having trouble following directions or recipes.
- Becoming more confused about time, people, and places.
- Not taking care of yourself – eating poorly, not bathing, not behaving safely.
Whether you are at high risk, or already living with dementia, researchers agree that brain games to improve memory can be an effective way to keep your brain sharp.