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 over 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 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
A Harvard Health report suggests that brain-stimulating challenges like 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.
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 try several and mix up puzzles you love with ones you’ve never tried!
Coloring, whether or not you stay within the lines, relaxes your brain, improves brain function and is said to induce a meditative state. It may improve focus, reduce anxiety, relieve stress, and even improve sleep. Check out the Post’s new Community Pages and the February coloring page. Print it out and grab your pencils or crayons, or color it in online using a coloring app.
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 – like 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, Dominos, 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!
The Active Aging Series is brought to you by our partner, Cambrian Homecare. Cambrian Homecare has been assisting individuals to stay independent in their homes for 25 years. Flexible experience you can trust, when the best place is still at home. Click here to see all of Cambrian’s informative articles.