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Think Fast! Best Brain Games and Apps for Older Adults

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Even the healthiest individuals can be quick to complain they’re not thinking as fast as they once did. Words and names may not come to mind as readily. And learning new tasks could become more of a challenge. Perhaps you’ve witnessed this in a senior loved one. Or maybe you’re seeing it in yourself.

Common causes or problems with memory or thinking abilities may include medication side-effects, problems with hormones, infections, or damage to brain neurons.

While research findings remain inconclusive, more scientists are studying the benefits of brain fitness games for older adults including those with dementia. “Multiple studies suggest that playing brain games helps maintain and even boost cognitive performance,” says Marwan Sabbagh, M.D., medical director of the Cleveland Clinic’s Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health at the Cleveland Clinic in Las Vegas, Nevada.

One of these studies of almost 3,000 people found that just ten 60-minute brain-training sessions over a five-week period successfully slowed their rate of cognitive decline. Another systematic review of more than 151 studies found that working memory, processing speed, and brain function were all boosted by computerized brain training games, and that older adults don’t need to be technologically savvy to play them.

There are a lot of apps and other tools on the market that claim to help with memory training. Below are a few that we think are particularly helpful for seniors.

Stand-Alone Hand-Held Electronic Games

According to, stand-alone hand-held electronic games give seniors a chance to exercise the brain when they are alone, and the portability of these games means they are playable anywhere, including in a doctor's waiting room or in bed. These games can be played against a computer, which shouldn’t leave seniors open to scams.

Hand-held electronic card games encourage seniors to use math and strategy to win, and some games are available in senior-friendly mega screens that use larger buttons and graphics.

Downloadable Apps

From an app store, seniors can also download apps of their favorite game shows, such as Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune, and Family Feud.

Need More? 5 Free Brain Training Apps for Older Adults

In addition, check out these suggestions from Parade magazine. The story includes more detail about availability. These brain games might be great for your senior to do alone or with you or other family members:

1. LumosityOver three billion games have been played by more than 85 million people

Created by more than 100 researchers from around the globe and launched in 2007, this was one of the first apps in the brain-training empire. They help older adults by providing exercises devised to improve five areas of cognitive function: problem-solving, memory, attention, speed and flexibility.

2. PeakShort, intense workouts plus a virtual coach to track your progress

Is your senior looking for something quick? Why not try mini-games, which “push you hard with short, intense workouts.” These mental gymnastics help boost memory, problem-solving, concentration, language and more. Utilizing research from scientists from prestigious universities like Cambridge and Yale, Peak was rated by Google in 2016 as one of the best Android apps.

3. ElevateiPhone’s best app of the year for 2014

Elevate can set older adults up with daily entertaining-yet-challenging games to help build communication and analytical abilities. Their mini-games are geared toward strengthening focus, memory, reading comprehension and other cognitive skills.

4. Cognifit Brain FitnessBrain games and more

What stands out in this app designed by neuroscientists are its specific programs to “stimulate or rehabilitate” brain function in people with conditions like dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, brain injuries and more. If you or your senior thrive on social interaction (which also can help keep your brain healthy), you can challenge friends and see how you rank in real-time monitoring.

5. Mensa Brain TrainingFrom the largest and oldest IQ society in the world

Perception, recall and logic are all parts of mental acuity, and Mensa-approved exercises help strengthen these and more. The games, which allow seniors to chart their progress over time, may not admit a player to Mensa’s high-IQ society, but you can test your mental savvy in a fun and challenging way. Their tailored training program developed by puzzle experts challenges memory, concentration, agility, perception and reasoning, and was rated as the number one entertainment app in 17 countries.

While technology may be beneficial, so too is one-on-one contact with others and the personal relationships that result. For more about personalized home care, contact Home Instead.

Last revised: September 10, 2019

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