Dementia, a condition that causes a progressive loss of cognitive abilities, poses significant challenges to daily functioning. Memory, thinking, reasoning, and language skills are often impaired in individuals with dementia, making it difficult for them to perform everyday activities. While a cure for dementia remains elusive, certain treatment options can help alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life. One such option that has gained attention is the use of memory games to stimulate the brain. In this article, we delve into the research on brain stimulating games for dementia and explore how they may aid cognitive functions. We also highlight some of the best games in this category.
How Can Brain Games Help People with Dementia?
Games serve as a source of entertainment and engagement for the human mind. Moreover, they have the potential to stimulate the brain, making them particularly valuable for older adults, especially those at risk of dementia. Research has shown that engaging in combined physical and cognitive “exergame” training can lead to significant improvement in working memory and executive function 1. Another study demonstrated that computerized cognitive training can increase gray matter volume in the brain, potentially preserving general cognition 2. These studies suggest that gaming may help improve cognitive skills, including memory and reasoning, in individuals with dementia.
A review conducted in 2020 explored the role of serious games in dementia care. The review identified three types of games—board games, video games, and virtual reality games—and their benefits. Board games were found to improve cognitive functions such as memory, communication, and emotional regulation. Video games, with their customizable nature, directly target cognitive abilities like memory and reasoning. Virtual reality games provide both cognitive and physical reinforcement depending on the game type 3. Early and middle stage dementia patients who used serious games experienced improvements in short-term memory, reaction time, problem-solving, logical reasoning, and communication 3. While the evidence for the efficacy of brain games in dementia care is somewhat mixed, these findings offer promise and warrant further research.
The Best Games to Play for Dementia
Not all games are equally effective in training cognitive skills. Certain games can support a wide range of cognitive abilities, making them particularly suitable for individuals with dementia. Here are some recommended games that may enhance cognitive skills:
Word puzzles, such as crosswords and word searches, focus on language skills. These puzzles can improve verbal learning, memory, speed, and more 4. Consider trying out these classic word puzzles:
- Word searches
- Branded games like Scrabble and Mad Libs
Jigsaw puzzles are beneficial for memory and reasoning. They range from simple to complex, catering to different levels of difficulty. Jigsaw puzzles can provide support for cognitive skills like memory recall and reasoning.
Dice games rely on luck and can help individuals practice numerical and calculation skills, which may decline in conditions like dementia. Games such as Backgammon, Kismet, Liar’s dice, Shut the Box, and Yahtzee can be beneficial.
Card games offer opportunities to enhance reasoning, problem-solving, memory, and concentration skills—skills that often decline in individuals with dementia. Some recommended card games include matching games like Go Fish, trick-taking games like Bridge, specific games like Uno, solitaire variations, and collectible games like the Pokémon Trading Card Game.
Board games, played on a pre-made board with pieces, cards, and dice, provide cognitive benefits. A study revealed that playing analog games, including board games, resulted in less cognitive decline in older adults 5. Some suggested board games are Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit, Ticket to Ride, Cranium, and Chess.
Video games encompass a wide range of electronic games, from desktop computer games to mobile games. Research supports the idea that specially designed brain training games can enhance cognitive functioning in older adults 6. Recommended video games include TETRIS, Candy Crush Saga, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Wii Sports, and classic games like word games, puzzles, card or dice games, and board games available in mobile or app versions.
Free Games to Play on Your Cell Phone
For those seeking free gaming options, several games are available on cell phones. Some popular choices are Blackbox – Brain Puzzles, Scrabble GO, Words with Friends, Wordle on the New York Times website, Candy Crush Saga, and Cookie Run: Kingdom.
Other Brain Activities
Apart from games, several other activities can support cognitive function in individuals with dementia. These activities include:
- Reading: Engaging in various forms of reading, such as books, poetry, magazines, newspapers, and online content.
- Entertainment: Watching television shows or listening to radio shows.
- Arts: Participating in art forms like painting, drawing, and playing musical instruments.
- Learning: Acquiring new knowledge through classes, YouTube videos, podcasts, or other mediums.
It’s important to note that individuals with severe dementia may face challenges in engaging in certain activities. Simplified activities like chatting, reminiscing, looking through pictures, and listening to music can be more suitable for them.
Frequently Asked Questions about Games for Dementia
Should you play games by yourself or with another person, or does it matter?
The research does not provide a definitive answer regarding whether solo or multiplayer games are better for dementia. Different types of games offer distinct cognitive benefits. Crossword puzzles, typically played alone, enhance language and attention. Board games, on the other hand, also improve these skills, while providing socialization and communication benefits through multiplayer engagement.
Can brain games prevent or delay dementia if you start them early in life?
While no scientific evidence proves that brain games can prevent or treat dementia, certain lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of developing dementia. Staying cognitively active and socializing with family and friends are two such changes that brain games can facilitate.
Who is most at risk of dementia, and is there anything that can prevent this condition?
The biggest risk factors for dementia are age and genetics, which cannot be controlled. Aging is the primary risk factor, with the risk doubling every five years starting around age 70. Although certain lifestyle changes can lower the risk, no approach has been proven to entirely prevent dementia.
Are there any medical treatments that can cure dementia once it’s developed?
There is currently no cure for dementia. However, certain medications, cognitive treatments like cognitive stimulation therapy, and lifestyle therapies may help manage symptoms and potentially slow down the disease’s progression in some individuals.
With dementia affecting millions of older adults worldwide, it is essential to explore ways to enhance cognitive functioning and potentially reduce the risk of developing dementia. Brain stimulating games and other activities have shown promise in improving cognitive abilities in older adults. However, more research is needed to fully understand the role of brain games in dementia prevention and treatment. Regardless of their direct impact on dementia, games offer a fun and engaging way to keep the brain active at any age.