We all know the importance of exercising our bodies. Getting appropriate amounts of exercise increases muscle mass, promotes heart health, improves range of motion, supports balance and prevents falls, and reduces stress and anxiety levels. While many prioritize physical exercise, they may not give much thought to mental exercise, but it is a vital factor in keeping our brains healthy!
As we get older, we may experience memory challenges and have a hard time growing our mind. When some talk about memory loss it can sound untreatable, but this is not the case. As modern medicine advances, so does the research surrounding memory and how to maintain a healthy brain as you age!
This article breaks down nine memory games that you might just get hooked playing everyday.
Memory Loss and Age
Memory is the ability to retain various information we’ve learned throughout life. There are different forms of memory: long term memory, short term memory, and muscle memory, that carry out this recall process.
It is no secret that the quality of memory can change throughout life. Depending on a variety of factors, you may have great memory during some years, but seem to have trouble recalling information at other ages. However, many believe that memory decreases significantly with age, but this is not a normal part of aging.
Age-related memory changes can affect how quickly you process information, how quickly you respond, and how quickly you can recall certain information or memories. This should not affect your memory significantly unless you have a memory impairment such as dementia.
Why does our memory change?
Memory changes due to a few factors. It’s important to understand these factors so you know what changes to make to improve your memory.
Here are some common causes of normal age-related memory changes:
- Medications sometimes have side effects and can cause brain fog and difficulty remembering certain things
- Depression and anxiety
- Brain tumor
- Blood clots
- Thyroid disease
- Vitamin deficiency
- Certain diseases or health conditions
When To Be Concerned
Regular age-related memory changes are normal parts of aging and they’re easy to prevent and reverse! These include processing new information slower, trouble recalling certain dates or names, and trouble recognizing familiar information.
Memory changes become a health concern when they impact daily life and activities. For instance, if you forget where you put your car keys, this is generally normal and nothing to worry about. But, if you forget what your car looks like or which keys go to what vehicle, this is not so normal and may be a cause for concern.
Games That Boost Memory
One of the best memory boosters may come as a shock. Playing mind and memory games can drastically boost memory and overall cognitive function. These games exercise the mind, challenge it with various topics, and encourage the brain to think in different ways. By playing these games you can promote your memory and prevent normal age-related memory changes.
Here are some of our favorite memory boosting games!
1. Trivia Games
Trivia games are a great way to boost memory in senior adults. Not only are they fun, but they ask you to recall events, people, and objects from the past—which directly correlates to stimulating the memory.
There are all different kinds of trivia. If you’re a movie buff who follows directors and cast members, there’s trivia for that. If you know every detail of American history like the back of your hand, there’s a trivia game for that too. From pop-culture to music to ancient history, trivia can stimulate your memory and be a fun way to brush up on history too!
Plus, trivia is a social game. You can play with family members or bring a trivia game to play with friends!
2. Word Games
Word retrieval is an important aspect of short-term memory, specifically relating to the language centers in our brains. Word games are a great way to stimulate these centers and promote our word retrieval skills.
There are plenty of word games you can do on your phone for free such as Words with Friends, Boggle, and word searches. Don’t have a smartphone? There are also word games you can do with family and friends such as the classic Scrabble or a Boggle board game!
Sudoku is a number-based puzzle originating from Japan. The basic principle of the game is to follow certain rules and fill blank boxes with numbers until they’re all full. This game not only boosts memory, but it stimulates our minds to think quickly, promotes our problem-solving skills, and supports concentration and focus on individual tasks.
Chess is a fun board game, but it’s also quite the mind challenge. This game is based on strategy. The aim is to move your pawn (chess pieces) to overthrow the other player. You have certain boundaries and instructions on where you can move.
Playing chess requires strategy, quick thinking, and problem solving. As an added bonus, this game usually requires a second player, so can socialize while playing chess as well. Socialization promotes emotional intelligence and can serve to boost memory too!
5. Left vs. Right Games
Our brains are generally separated into left and right brains. One brain boosting game involves doing tasks you’d usually do with your dominant hand and trying them with your non-dominant hand.
For instance, if you’re right-handed, try brushing your teeth with your left hand. Try writing a letter with your non-dominant hand as well or draw a picture with it. Using the opposite hand helps the brain cells connect and communicate with one another.
To add some extra fun to the game, play with a family member or friend and see who can perform a task better with their non-dominant hand. This game is an easy way to boost memory through everyday tasks, and it’s completely free.
6. Memorization Games
You can also play memory games with yourself. There are memory games you can get on your phone, computer, or you can make one up for free!
To play this game, make a list of ten people or things. Write your list down on a piece of paper and wait an hour or two. After the time has passed, grab another piece of paper and try to duplicate the list! Compare the two and see the results.
For an added challenge, have a friend or family member formulate a list of ten random things for you. Give yourself a few minutes to look over the list and then after an hour, recite the items back to them to see how many you can remember!
7. Crossword Puzzles
Another fun brain game are crossword puzzles, and you can like find free ones online or in a newspaper! These puzzles will have rows of boxes going up, down, and side to side. A letter goes in each box to make words that fit into the descriptions given.
These games are a great way to promote quick thinking and range of thought as the words can be part of any topic. Try doing the crossword with a friend or loved one to have a friendly competition or some company while playing!
8. Counting Games
Counting games are another fun way to exercise your brain and boost your memory. Try counting backwards from 100 as quickly as you can. Then try counting backwards from 200. If this is too easy, count backwards by fives or increments of eleven for an added challenge.
You can also play math games on your computer or phone to stimulate your brain and the ability to think on your feet. From word problems to simple subtraction and multiplication, you can find a math game that gets you thinking.
Jigsaw puzzles are not only a great way to stimulate your brain and boost memory, but they make beautiful works of art when finished. Plus, you can put puzzles together with family and friends, and even frame them after you’re finished to preserve the picture.
Jigsaw puzzles exercise our strategy skills and problem-solving skills as we figure out where to start, which pieces to put aside, and how to put the puzzle together. Puzzles are fairly cheap at dollar stores or even big-box stores, or you may even have a puzzle or two lying around in the house.
Other Tips for Boosting Memory
Along with playing memory games to improve memory and exercise the mind, here are some extra memory boosting tips.
- Watch your cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure levels and keep them regulated.
- Eat a balanced, nutritious diet of varied fruits and vegetables. If you have trouble finding ways to get the vitamins and nutrients you need, consider taking a multivitamin!
- Avoid smoking or drinking too much alcohol.
- Promote a positive mindset and prioritize stress management and mental health.
- Get a good night’s sleep! If you have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, try a hemp extract gummy or tincture. The therapeutic effects of CBD promote calm and better sleep!
- Exercise regularly!
- Pursue hobbies and share these hobbies with friends. This also promotes socialization which encourages emotional intelligence and mental health.
As we age, our brains require more exercise and stimulation to stay healthy and promote memory, but luckily there are tons of fun ways to stimulate our brains. From crossword and jigsaw puzzles to memory games to a friendly game of chess, there’s a game for everyone.
Memory decline is not an inevitable part of aging! There are many resources to promote your cognitive health and boost your memory, so grab a game and start playing.