Health & Medical

Puzzles for Seniors: 11 Benefits of Playing with Puzzles

Benefits of Puzzles for the Elderly

There are many benefits that puzzles have to offer the elderly; you may be surprised at how much of a positive impact even the simplest of them can have on a senior’s daily life.

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Many of these advantages will be discussed in further detail below, with suggestions for the best types of board games for seniors; these are usually games that don’t involve too much pressure or a set time to complete.

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Why Are Puzzles Good for the Elderly?

There are several reasons why these pastimes can be an excellent activity for older adults. Below are some of the many benefits they have:

They Improve Short-Term Memory

There are few better ways to stave off the effects of aging on the mind than with puzzles. Taking part in these activities result in new connections between brain cells, and solving such enigmas has been proven to improve short-term memory.

Brain games, like puzzles, help build-up your cognitive reserve, according to Harvard Health Publishing. The cognitive reserve can be compared to a rainy-day savings account for the brain.  A healthy cognitive reserve has been shown to possibly aid in the battle against age-related memory loss and dementia.

The best way to build up this cognitive reserve is to pair puzzle-solving with 150 minutes of exercise every week. If you are unable to exercise for 150 minutes a week, there is no need to worry. Any amount of activity will nicely complement it.

They Improve Concentration

There are generally fewer opportunities to practice concentration at an older age; when you are actively working or going to school, you must stay concentrated if you are going to complete all of the items on your daily agenda. In contrast, when you are retired, you are less inclined to concentrate on any one particular task.

However, projects around the home can be a good source of such opportunities, though residents of assisted living communities need to find another way to challenge themselves routinely in this regard.

This is where puzzles come in handy. They require the participant to concentrate on very specific tasks, allowing them to engage parts of the brain that they wouldn’t otherwise. Word searches are one such type of puzzle that can help improve concentration.
 
This is because participants must focus their vision to find actual words among a jumble of letters. Word search games are tailor-made for seniors too because they do not contain many moving pieces in the way that many board games (like chess) do.

In addition, players must use a high amount of recall when they are completing crosswords. Recall is defined as the action of remembering an item that was previously learned or observed. It is of utmost importance that seniors regularly practice their ability to recall facts; it will help keep them engaged in remembering daily experiences as well.

They Offer Stress Relief

Puzzles have also been shown to relieve stress. It allows an individual a momentary escape from whatever challenges they have to overcome at a particular point in their life. Sometimes all a person needs is a little morale-booster, and every puzzle solved helps with that.

In addition, people often deal with stress via physical activities, like running and weightlifting. However, as you age, long-duration physical exertion may be less likely to be possible or a useful stress reliever. And although still very rewarding, these activities may not offer the same peace of mind that they once did.

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Brain games offer an opportunity for an escape from the stresses of daily life. They can be more rewarding in this regard than gym training. The below types of puzzles are often recommended for this purpose:

  • Jigsaws
  • Word Search
  • Crossword
  • Fill in the blank
  • Mazes

Note: According to the Dana Foundation, tension can cause memory relapses to be much more likely, so seniors are encouraged to avoid timed games if stress relief is the objective. Timed games can only contribute to increased pressure and stress.

You Can Get More Consistent Sleep

Usually, people will watch television or spend time on their cell phones/mobile devices before going to bed, but this can be detrimental to achieving a good night’s sleep consistently.

Working on puzzles has been shown to improve the quality of sleep. However, this only applies as long as the activity can contribute to a greater relaxation point for bedtime.

They positively influence sleep because they provide a much better opportunity to relax than staring at a screen. Phones are a big no-no before bedtime because they emit a blue light that suppresses the body’s creation of melatonin; this is the hormone that is responsible for helping the body maintain its sleep patterns.

Psychologist and insomnia expert Les Giles notes that one of his patients in the past actually created their own crosswords in their head before nodding off for the night, and seniors experiencing insomnia are encouraged to try their hand at similar techniques. Alternatively, they can always work on paper crosswords like the ones found in this collection here.

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