The Power of Play: Slow Dementia with These 4 Games


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1. Senior Memory Games

If you remember playing Memory as a child, you probably recall placing the square cards face-down and taking turns with another player to make as many matches as possible. Games such as these help people with dementia work on their short-term memory and recall abilities. Playing Memory with a family member or a friend also supports communication skills and enhances the brain-boosting power of the game because it involves socialization. However, some seniors prefer to play memory games online, and there are sites that provide games at various skill levels online.

2. Chronology Games

If you frame questions in a “Which came first?” format, people will use their long-term memory and reasoning skills to try to figure out the answer. For people who are in the early stages of dementia, you can ask random questions from history. For people who are in more advanced stages of dementia, you can ask questions from a certain time period, or ask questions more relevant to the present day and their daily tasks: Which should you do first? Eat breakfast or brush your teeth?

3. Card Games

Card games are ideal for people who want to stave off dementia because they involve so many different skills and stimulate various parts of the brain. Seniors especially reap the cognitive benefits of playing cards because they provide problem-solving exercise and work out their memory skills.

An added benefit of playing card games is the socialization aspect. People who are isolated do not use communication skills and do not engage their brains as much, which puts them at risk of higher levels of deterioration. However, seniors who socialize and communicate with others by playing cards are more calm and share memories and stories with others that stimulate their long-term memories.

For seniors who learn new card games, the brain stimulation is excellent. They have to use short-term and long-term memory, recall, and problem-solving skills in addition to analytical and strategic skills.

4. Language Games

One of the first signs of memory loss is struggling to find the right words when speaking. Playing games that require language and words is an ideal activity for people who want to ward off dementia. Language games such as crossword puzzles, word searches, I Spy, Catch Phrase, Boggle, and Scrabble are perfect for people who want to reduce their risk of dementia.

For people who are in the early to mid-stages of dementia should engage in activities that promote verbal skills. Sitting and talking with a friend, looking at photographs and talking about the people and places in them, singing songs, and describing favorite vacations and places encourage verbal skills and memories that can minimize brain deterioration. It’s also fun to create games using people’s favorite quotations, poems, and songs; they could finish a line provided by you, sort cards that contain song names and lyrics and match them up, match lines of poems to poem titles, and more.

Just about any type of game that stimulates the brain and gives people a mental workout is helpful for warding off dementia. Caregivers and doctors frequently recommend playing memory games, chronology games, card games, and language games for individuals who want to minimize brain health deterioration and slow the symptoms of dementia.

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Rachael Wonderlin is an internationally-recognized dementia care expert and consultant. She has a Master’s in Gerontology and is the author of three published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. Rachael owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting and education company.

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