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.

SaleBestseller No. 1
USA TODAY Crossword: 200 Puzzles from The Nation's No. 1 Newspaper (USA Today Puzzles) (Volume 2)
  • USA TODAY (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 448 Pages - 05/01/2007 (Publication Date) - Andrews McMeel Publishing (Publisher)
Bestseller No. 2
2022 Crossword Puzzles Book For Adults With Solution: Large-print, Medium level Puzzles | Awesome...
  • K. Johnson, Jennifer (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 103 Pages - 10/21/2021 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)
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The New York Times Ultimate Crossword Omnibus: 1,001 Puzzles from The New York Times
  • St Martin s Griffin
  • The New York Times (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Puzzles can also act as positive sources of relaxation for those in the post-retirement stage of their lives. Those who are younger experience a lot more events daily that lead to them being ready to rest. Seniors may have fewer things to be tired of every day.

Enhance Problem-Solving Skills

Seniors do not come by very many opportunities to sharpen their problem-solving skills. Even in old age, it is crucial to challenge yourself mentally as it will enhance your ability to overcome conflict in daily life.

The puzzles you work on do not need to be complicated. Any degree of problem-solving will keep the mind engaged, even the simplest of crosswords, because there is still an amount of brainstorming required to complete it.

Jigsaw puzzles are great in helping improve and maintain problem-solving skills. This is because you have to be able to visualize how each piece fits into the overall picture. Participants run into situations where they think they might have the right part, only to find out that it could not possibly be the right piece because its orientation does not fit the proposed location.

Provide Opportunities for Social Connections

Having good social connections is critical for an individual’s mental health, and puzzles actually can allow seniors to connect with others. There are clubs, informal or formal, where you can meet with others to play these brain games.

Many retirement communities have set-up puzzle clubs for their residents to participate in. You might be surprised how many of these brain games are actually conducive to group play. For example, one neat idea involves holding a jigsaw competition.

In a jigsaw competition, participants are divided into separate teams that are given the same puzzle. The winning team is the one who can complete it the fastest. This basic format can be modified for just about any kind of brain game; you can create competitions for crosswords or word searches as well.

Escape games are designed for larger groups. The Escape Room in the Box by Werewolf is one such example of a potential group activity for seniors. The box contains various 2D and 3D puzzles that each play a role in helping seniors “crack the code” to escape a hypothetical locked room.

Besides a physical group game, there are also various online games where seniors can interact with other live players even if their travel capabilities are limited. The website Jigsaw Puzzles is an example of a platform where older adults can participate in multiplayer puzzles and invite friends to join them.

Puzzles Can Be Played with Grandchildren

The hobby is inclusive of all ages and very family-friendly. For this reason, grandparents are encouraged to use these fun activities to connect with their grandchildren. Many of them are already child-friendly.

You do not necessarily need to complete a puzzle in one sitting in the way that you would in a board game. After all, young children can quickly become disinterested in an activity. Jigsaw puzzles are an excellent grandchild-grandparent project because just a little bit can be completed each time the grandchildren visit.

Sharpen Logic and Reasoning

As you age, you will likely have less opportunity to utilize your logical thinking skills. Sudoku offers the elderly a chance to complete a game that sharpens such skills.

For those unfamiliar with what Sudoku is, here is a basic rundown:

  • The game consists of a 9×9 square grid containing 81 cells.
  • The entire grid is split up into nine different 3×3 blocks.
  • There is a select number of the 81 cells already with numbers between 1 and 9. (These are referred to as “givens.”)
  • The object of the game is to fill the entire grid so that each row, column, and block features each number only once.

The first step in solving any Sudoku puzzle involves the practice of “cross-hatching” to determine—via the process of elimination—which numbers cannot be entered in any given row, column, or box. From there, the player must then use logic to find patterns.

Attention to numbers and patterns is an absolute must if you are to be successful in this endeavor. Even though it sounds complicated, there are plenty of “beginner” difficulty puzzles that will help participants learn the ropes before they proceed to more challenging ones.

It Keeps the Fingers Moving

Occupational therapists have observed the completion of puzzles as having physical benefits in addition to mental ones. This is because they require some level of hand movement to be completed successfully, as is recognized in this study on the use of jigsaws to enlist cognitive skills.

As limited as this movement may seem, it can actually be quite significant for someone who is not readily mobile. In their case, the puzzle may be one of the best chances to stay active and engaged throughout the day. It is most certainly an improvement over sitting in front of the television most of the time.

Many seniors struggle to find routine physical activities that are not overly strenuous and will not lead to injury. However, some activities, such as jigsaw puzzles, require seniors to maneuver items only with their hands; pen and pad games like crossword puzzles require them to use their fingers to write with a pen or pencil.

Completing these puzzles requires some level of motor skills to be used in ways that seniors may not need to in their daily lives. This is particularly the case if they happen to live in an assisted living situation where they do not need to partake in routine activities around the home like cooking and cleaning.

Puzzles Are Can Be Worked on Anywhere

It may be challenging for seniors to find a hobby that they can participate in, no matter the weather. Seniors are more susceptible than others to weather that is either excessively hot or excessively cold, so it is essential to find a meaningful hobby that can be done in both an indoor and outdoor setting.

Puzzles are the ultimate answer to the question of what to do on a cold and rainy day. They are a readily-mobile activity because they can be completed on a covered back porch or a table inside. The quality of play does not depend upon external influences like the weather.

You Can Get Puzzles Anywhere

Finally, puzzles are easy to come by; you can purchase them at your local store or online, and there are many different types to choose from. The online purchase method is excellent for seniors because you don’t have to physically visit any store, ideal for older adults with limited mobility.

Best Types of Puzzles for Seniors

To maximize the above-listed mental benefits, you are encouraged to mix things up with different types of puzzles. This is because consistently solving the same kinds of enigmas every day won’t do much to actually challenge the brain in the long-term. (It would be akin to only doing upper body exercises every day and never leg exercises.)

With that said, the following is a summary of some of the best types of puzzles for older adults worth keeping in your inventory:

Jigsaw Puzzles

Jigsaw puzzles are one of the best types of puzzles for seniors to try their hand at. The reason is that they are easy to complete at your own pace. You can easily step away from it and complete it later.

Jigsaws also come available in varying degrees of difficulty. Some are quite simple on one end of the spectrum (an example would be a picture of birds on a branch). At the opposite end of the spectrum, you will find tricky puzzles with lots of detail. An example of a much more difficult one would be this picture of Times Square in New York.

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Sudoku is another example of a game that will always keep the player mentally engaged since there are typically six different difficulty standards ranging from “beginner” to “diabolical.” You can find a sudoku book here. The book contains over 1,000 different puzzles ranging from beginner to expert in difficulty.

Bestseller No. 1
1000+ Sudoku Puzzles for Adults: A Book With More Than 1000 Sudoku Puzzles from Easy to Hard for...
  • Publishing XR, Nova (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 130 Pages - 07/05/2021 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)
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1000+ Sudoku Puzzles Easy to Hard: Sudoku puzzle book for adults With Full Solutions
  • Puzzles Book, Brain (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 152 Pages - 10/02/2021 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)
Bestseller No. 3
Funster 1,000+ Sudoku Puzzles Easy to Hard: Sudoku puzzle book for adults
  • Timmerman, Charles (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 222 Pages - 11/04/2019 (Publication Date) - Funster (Publisher)


You may be familiar with cryptograms from newspapers. These are puzzles that start with a well-known quote (either historical or a common phrase) in capital letters but substitute a new letter for each original letter given. The objective is to use your own intuition to decipher the phrase.

This booklet contains a wide variety of cryptogram.

Bestseller No. 1
Cryptic Crosswords Volume 1 (Fraser Simpson Cryptic Crosswords)
  • Simpson, Fraser (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 140 Pages - 01/25/2021 (Publication Date) - Zarf Puzzles (Publisher)
Bestseller No. 2
Blue-Chip Cryptic Crosswords as Published in The Wall Street Journal (Volume 5) (Wall Street Journal...
  • Cox, Emily (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 96 Pages - 04/07/2020 (Publication Date) - Puzzlewright (Publisher)
Bestseller No. 3
Cryptic Crosswords for Fun, Volume 6! (Cryptics for Fun)
  • Glass, Peter (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 100 Pages - 11/27/2021 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)

Word Searches

These types of puzzles will ensure that your vocabulary is kept strong. Word searches also present an opportunity for you to exercise your concentration since you will need to decipher words from a jumbled mess.

You can find an extensive collection of word searches here. Older adults will also find this large print word search booklet to be easy to read.

SaleBestseller No. 1
KAPPA Super Saver LARGE PRINT Word Search Puzzle Pack-Set of 9 Carry-Along Digest Size Books
  • Kappa Books Publishers (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 09/08/2020 (Publication Date) - Kappa Books Publishers (Publisher)
Bestseller No. 2
Funster 500+ Word Search Puzzles for Adults: Word Search Book for Adults with a Huge Supply of...
  • Timmerman, Charles (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 257 Pages - 08/20/2020 (Publication Date) - Funster (Publisher)
Bestseller No. 3
Large Print 8 000 Words Word Search Puzzle Book for Adults: Over 400+ Puzzles. Big Large Set 4 in 1....
  • Publisher, Smart Time (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 482 Pages - 05/27/2021 (Publication Date) - Independently published (Publisher)

Vocabulary Games

These types of puzzles typically involve some kind of word association. They may ask you to rhyme with a set of words, pick out which word doesn’t belong to a group or pick a list of words that fit a specific requirement. These are fun brain games that are designed to stave off the onset of memory loss issues. You can find a booklet full of brain games here.

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Final Thoughts

Puzzles are primarily cited to help stave off the mental effects associated with aging in seniors. However, there are plenty more benefits of puzzles that go even beyond that, such as helping older adults maintain meaningful relationships and connect with the people around them. They can even help the elderly keep the dexterity of their fingers.

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Overall, puzzles have much more to offer seniors than you may think, so pick up an excellent book of word searches for yourself or a loved one and start putting your brain and hands to work!


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