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10 Games to Improve Memory for Elderly People

Four elderly people playing games to improve memory

As we get older, we tend to lose some of the mobility and physical fitness we took for granted as our younger selves.

Aches, pains, grumbly knees and twinges are all part and parcel of ageing – which is why keeping fit and getting daily exercise is so important in later life.

However, what we might not realise is that keeping our brains sharp is also vital to ward off conditions like dementia.

Although memory and brain function can decline over time, there are things you can do to exercise your mind and reduce cognitive decline.

Playing certain games is like doing brain exercises and can help improve cognitive functions and boost brainpower. Games play a huge role in care home activities, especially in residential care homes and nursing homes. Residents enjoy socialising and having fun with their friends and staff - and may even get competitive!

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Read on to discover our list of the best brain games to improve memory for elderly people.

In this article on memory-improving games for the elderly:

  1. Word puzzles
  2. Chess
  3. Number puzzles
  4. Jigsaw puzzles
  5. Memory games
  6. Cards
  7. Board games
  8. Learning a language
  9. Brain training apps
  10. Games for people with dementia

1. Word Puzzles

Word puzzle games like crosswords can really help to combat memory loss and boost cognitive skills. Working out crossword clues uses the left and right sides of the brain, helps you to learn new words and encourages the brain to recall facts and vocabulary. 

In fact, crosswords are often used as a way to delay Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Doing a daily crossword puzzle is a great way for elderly people to spend some time relaxing on their own, or can alternatively be done in a group for some social interaction. 

Other good word puzzles include arrow words, hangman, Boggle and word searches.  

2. Chess

Chess isn’t for everyone, but it is a classic game and a wonderful way to engage the brain. To play a good game of chess, you’ll need a strategy, the ability to plan ahead and keep your opponent on their toes, as well as focus and concentration. 

Among the numerous benefits of chess, the game has been proven to help ward off Alzheimer’s disease. This is because through playing numerous games of chess, players learn to assess when best to deploy certain tactics by remembering previous games and their different combinations of moves and outcomes. 

Elderly people playing chess

It has been shown that chess has a beneficial effect on both auditory and visual memory, plus, did you know that when played regularly, chess can even improve IQ?

Chess can seem complicated at first and some people may be put off by this, but you don’t need to be a genius to play! Why not find a friend who is also a beginner and learn together? It can be a really fun game that helps to keep the brain active.

3. Number Puzzles

If you aren't a fan of words, a number puzzle could be the game for them. Number games such as Sudoku puzzles require problem-solving skills, logic and memory skills, as well as concentration and decision-making. 

Not only does identifying number patterns help your brain, but completing the puzzle gives you a sense of accomplishment, too. 

Sudoku games are often available online if you or your loved one has access to a computer or a smart phone. 

4. Jigsaw Puzzles

Next on our list are jigsaw puzzles, another fantastic way to maintain brain health. Not only do jigsaw puzzles stimulate the mind and encourage the use of visual-spatial skills, memory and logic, but they have also been proven to reduce blood pressure and slow our breathing rate, helping us to unwind and relax. 

After all, nothing beats a cosy, rainy afternoon of puzzling; either alone or with friends.

Elderly people doing a jigsaw

5. Memory Games

For a fun activity, you can do with friends, a memory game like the tray game can be very effective for improving those all-important memory skills in older adults. 

To play the tray game, simply place a variety of different objects on a tray and give participants some time to look at everything. 

Then, you can either cover the items with a cloth and see who can recall the most items, or remove certain items from the tray and see who notices what’s changed!

Another option is the shopping list game, which is particularly helpful for those with dementia, as it encourages them to converse with others and bring up familiar items. 

To play the shopping list game, the first player states ‘I went to the shop/supermarket and bought…’, inserting an item of choice. 

The second player must then repeat the sentence and add on an additional item. 

Go around the group until someone misses out an item, or can no longer remember the list.

These games work the short-term memory, which comes in useful for day-to-day activities like food shops and to do lists. 

6. Cards

Not only are cards a fun way to spend time with friends, but they can also improve memory. Remembering your opponent’s cards, as well as planning your own strategy engages the brain in several ways at once. 

Plus, there are so many different card games that you’ll never get bored! 

A good example of a mentally stimulating card game is Solitaire, which can be played in person or online. 

Solitaire can be played at your own pace, making it a great option for a long session of brain training. For a more simple game, you can also spread a full deck of cards face down on a table and take it in turns to flip two cards over to find matching pairs. 

Elderly people playing cards

7. Board Games

Board games are a fun pastime that also happen to improve brain health and reduce the effects of ageing. 

Different board games make use of different skills, including logic, strategy, memory, problem-solving and trivia. Popular options are Snakes and Ladders, Monopoly, Concentration, Cluedo and Scrabble. 

If you or your loved one is in a care home, why not ask the activities coordinator to plan a board games night, with prizes for the winners?

8. Learning a Language

Although learning a language may not be a game as such, it is actually one of the best ways to challenge the brain and boost memory. 

There are plenty of language apps available that offer a fun and interactive way of learning, including Duolingo and Babbel. 

Don’t be put off by the thought of trying to become fluent – simply learning a few words a day can help to enhance brain health. 

If you or your loved one used to know a language but their knowledge is rusty, simple books and audiobooks can help to reignite language skills, as well as watching films, reading that country’s newspapers or listening to radio stations. 

Why not ask their care home whether there are opportunities for residents to learn a language together, or visit a community centre to take a class. 

9. Brain Training Apps

If you or your loved one has a smartphone or a tablet, brain training games, apps and puzzles are just a tap away at all times. 

Brain training apps can improve memory, visual-spatial skills, problem-solving, concentration and logic, plus have the advantage of being playable at any time of day. 

Some of the more common apps are Lumosity, NeuroNation and BrainHQ, all of which can be found on the App Store for iPhones, or the Google Play Store for Android phones. Most apps are free, but make sure you check before downloading. 

It’s not just apps that can help boost brain activity – online games and video games have also been shown to be useful for elderly people. 

Video games in particular require speedy reaction times, forward planning and a good memory for which buttons do what, so why not teach an old dog new tricks and challenge your grandad to a game of Mario Kart!

10. Games for those with Dementia

If your loved one has dementia, there are plenty of games that can help slow the progress of the disease and improve memory. These include jigsaw puzzles, simple card games like Snap, Bingo, board games like Snakes and Ladders and dominoes. 

It may help to use games designed for children, as these provide the right level of stimulation without being frustrating. Encouraging those with dementia to keep their mind active and focus on a particular task or game for a certain period of time helps them to stay engaged and have fun. 

Elderly people playing bingo

Keep Your Mind & Body Active!

Keeping the mind active in older age is so important – and this list shows just how many ways there are to do it, from word and number puzzles to board games and apps. 

Don’t feel you have to stick to this list alone – identifying plants, reading books, party games, Bingo, arts and crafts and pub quizzes are all examples of fun and engaging ways to stimulate the brain and refresh memory skills. 

It’s worth noting that regular physical exercise, high-quality sleep and a healthy diet also play a part in the function of the brain, too. 

To keep the brain in top condition, elderly people should be encouraged to use memory games as often as possible – in fact, you only need to spend five to 15 minutes a day playing them to see results. 

If you're reading this on behalf of a loved one then why not share this list of brain training activities and games with your elderly relatives and enjoy some fun bonding time!

Find a Dementia Care Home

We offer a number of dementia care homes throughout the UK, many of which specialise in memory care:

Mulberry Court Care Home in Luton

Oaklands Care Home in Scole, Norfolk

Clarendon House Care Home in Coventry

The Laurels Care Home in Draycott, Somerset

Searching for an elderly care home can be a stressful and time-consuming operation. Thankfully, Lottie removes much of the difficulty from this process by connecting elderly people to the UK’s very best care homes through years of human expertise and smart technology.

Check out our list of elderly care homes across the UK and everything care-related we have to offer here!

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