Puzzles and games can slow cognitive decline in seniors

Joan Timpson  |  June 20, 2013

When the time comes to help an ageing relative move into a home where they can benefit from assisted living, it pays to think about not only the level of physical exercise they will receive at their care home, but also their mental stimulation.

While physical exercise is very important, and can have a range of benefits, mental exercise is every bit as important for older people. Even though the brain is made mostly of water, think of it as another muscle. Regular stimulation keeps it healthy and can help to prevent the deterioration of cognitive abilities.

There's a lot of research that backs up the idea that engaging in regular mental activity, such as doing crosswords, learning simple phrases in a foreign language or solving puzzles, can be beneficial, particularly to those seniors who are at risk of serious cognitive illnesses such as Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia. These pastimes do not have to be particularly rigorous in order to yield a positive result. So, in most retirement homes or even retirement villages, most residents will benefit from taking part in this type of activity,

The benefits of regular mental exercise are supported by research carried out at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, which discovered that mentally active seniors reduced their risk of developing serious dementia by as much as 75 percent compared to those who did not regularly engage in mentally stimulating activities.

The lesson's clear. When you're choosing a care home, ask if trained personnel are available to encourage your loved one to exercise their brain as well as their body.