Just as weightlifting builds muscles, many experts agree that doing brain exercises helps strengthen your mind as you age. But beware: Digital diversions are everywhere, even for older adults. Research shows that Americans ages 60 and older have increased screen time by nearly 30 minutes a day over the past decade.
While scrolling through news feeds and playing mobile games might be mentally stimulating, spending hours falling down a digital rabbit hole can disrupt sleep, cause headaches and eye strain and create other physical problems. Shutting down your smartphone, tablet and computer to do old-school puzzles and games is an easy trade-off that curbs screen time and helps boost your brainpower. Follow these ideas to get started.
Crossword puzzles, sudoku and word finds
Playing mobile word games is undeniably fun, but traditional newspaper subscribers may argue that there’s something special about the look, smell and feel of actual newsprint. Sitting down with a pencil or pen to do the local paper’s daily or weekly crossword puzzle engages multiple senses, cuts screen time and gives your brain a workout.
A Harvard Health report suggests that brain-stimulating challenges such as crosswords “may help sharpen certain thinking skills that tend to wane with age, such as processing speed, planning skills, reaction time, decision making and short-term memory.” Likewise, doing number puzzles like sudoku flexes memory functions, engages logical reasoning skills and helps increase concentration.
If you don’t get the paper, you can buy crossword, word finds, sudoku or variety books with hundreds of different puzzles at a newsstand, supermarket or bookstore. Tackling new mental challenges is also good for brain health, so be sure to mix up puzzles you love with ones you’ve never tried!
See the big picture with jigsaw puzzles
Doing a jigsaw puzzle engages multiple cognitive functions. To put pieces in their proper place and reveal the final big picture, you must recognize patterns, discern colors and shapes, use your memory and even “rotate” pieces in your mind to determine where they do and don’t fit. The more complex a picture is and the more pieces a puzzle has, the more your brain will work to solve it. Plus, putting a puzzle together with family and friends is a fun way to connect. Doing puzzles related to your hobbies and interests — such as Disney characters, fields filled with colorful flowers, different breeds of dogs or anything else you like — can make the project visually stimulating and more fun.
Beat boredom with board games
There’s no better way to beat the digital doldrums than having a game night with family and friends — virtual game nights count, too. Classic games like checkers, dominoes and chess involve strategic thinking to defeat your opponent. Word-related board games like Scrabble, Boggle, Upwords and Dabble help stimulate memory, sharpen focus and promote learning new vocabulary. Whether you’re using deductive reasoning to guess whodunit in Clue or attempting to broker a property trade in Monopoly, the wide array of game night options can provide hours of fun social interactions while you exercise multiple parts of your brain.
Play your cards wisely
Playing card games like poker, bridge, pinochle, euchre and rummy have brought players together around a table to shuffle, cut, deal and hope for a favorable hand for decades. Games like these require strategy, math skills, reasoning, logic, decision-making and more! If you’re not feeling up for a virtual card game with others, solitaire will forever be a tried and true favorite.
Overall, staying mentally fit is an essential part of a healthy, active aging lifestyle. Any of these suggestions offer a fun way to take a break from electronic devices and give your brain the workout it needs.
Active Aging is presented by Koelsch Communities.
With 60 years of signature service to families, Koelsch Communities has been family owned and operated for three generations. Our continued success is compelled by our founding principles as we strive to serve our residents with respect, dignity and compassion.