Senior Home Care Blog - Western Cook & Eastern DuPage Counties

Five Fun Ways to Boost Brain Power

By Mary L. Doepke, RN

Looking for a fun way to spend a chilly winter day? All you have to do is act like a kid again.

The childhood games that taught us about letters, numbers and patterns offer the same brain-boosting benefits as we age. They get our minds working, our hands moving and they exercise our social skills – all things that are important to healthy aging.  


A game of bridge, pinochle or even Old Maid is good for an aging brain. Card games require use of both short-term and long-term memory, along with problem-solving skills. Shuffling, dealing and holding cards exercises fine motor skills and eye-hand coordination.

Perhaps most importantly, card games are a social activity. Science repeatedly has shown that people who spend their time with other people live longer and happier lives than those who spend their time alone.


Visit any retirement community or hospital waiting room and you’re almost sure to find a partially finished jigsaw puzzle.

Who doesn’t love that sense of accomplishment you get from placing that key piece in the right spot?

Putting together a jigsaw puzzle requires your brain to see how colors and shapes fit together to create a bigger picture. The physical act of placing the pieces together requires finger dexterity. And when done with others, it becomes a social occasion.

Many also find working on a jigsaw to be relaxing and stress-relieving.

Memory Game

There’s a reason why this game is sometimes called Concentration. Especially popular among the preschool set, the memory game also is a great brain exercise for people of any age.

The game is simple. Pairs of matching cards are shuffled and placed face down on a surface. Each player takes turns trying to turn over matching cards.

Make the game extra special by using family photos in place of game cards.


It’s a staple in retirement communities everywhere, but Bingo isn’t just a way to pass the time.

This simple game requires little skill, but it does require players to put letters and numbers together. The game also requires hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills to place the tokens on the proper squares. Players must also be able to recognize the patterns needed to win.

Winning is exciting, not matter how small the prize. That excitement releases dopamine, a brain chemical that’s vital to our emotional and physical health.

And then there’s the socialization faction. Research has shown that people who remain socially active live longer and happier lives.

Word Games

Scrabble, Boggle and Bananagrams all are great ways to get the mind moving. Each challenges players to combine letters into words.

Depending on a person’s abilities, the junior versions of these games might be a good choice. And feel free to alter the rules to meet the needs of the players. For example, you might want to allow more time on each turn or even eliminate the time factor.

In addition to board games, crosswords and word finds also are good brain exercises, no matter our age.

Candy Crush?

The reviews are mixed as to whether this popular game is a blessing or a curse to those who play. Played on phones, tablets and computers everywhere, the game challenges the player to form groups of three or more like-colored candies. They’re rewarded with brightly colored candy explosions and verbal kudos such as “Sweet,” and “Delicious.”

The game lacks the social interaction of other pastimes, but it does require problem-solving skills, so if you or your aging loved one enjoys the game, crush on.

AARP has a collection of online brain-exercising games on its website. Lumosity is another popular site for games that appeal to the wants and needs of older adults.