Brain Exercises for Seniors: Which Activities Can Help Sharpen the Mind?

A brain lifting a dumbbell and sweating at the same time because it is heavy.

Over time, we have learned that brain cells begin to shrink and deteriorate as we age. Studies have shown there are ways to delay this process, and new research suggests that this may not be happening in ways we once thought. The good news is, as we age, we can still grow new brain cells. 

One area of scientific consensus exists: the key to brain health later in life is using it. Like muscles in the body, to keep it strong and functioning at peak capacity, you have to exercise your brain. This is why brain exercises for seniors are so important. Not only will they help keep your brain healthy in general, but they could also stave off (or lessen the effects of) more serious cognitive conditions, including different forms of dementia.

There are many different ways for seniors to boost brain health. This article covers some of the best memory exercises for seniors, including some that incorporate movement and exercise. Keep reading to find out more.

The Importance of Brain Health

The brain is a complex organ that functions as the command center for the body’s nervous system. It enables thoughts and memories, dictates movement, and is responsible for emotions. Maintaining a healthy brain is essential to living a full and healthy life.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, brain health refers to “the ability to perform all the mental processes of cognition.” This includes the capacity to learn, make judgments, use language, and remember information.  Conversely, when these functions diminish, it is due to some inadequacy in the brain. This of course could be due to injury or illness, but it also is a natural result of aging. To combat this decline, humans must use their brains regularly.

Brain Exercises for Seniors

There are many different brain exercises for seniors. Below are some of the best (and most accessible) to consider. Employing any combination of them will help encourage brain function and combat deterioration.

Board Games

Card and board games are a good place to start. Most families and senior living communities already have them (if not, they are inexpensive and easy to find in stores).  The important thing to remember here is that the game should involve some level of strategy. The more the game requires you to think, the better it is for your brain.

Learning a new board is even better. While classics like Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit, Scrabble, and chess are reliable sources of entertainment, a new board game can be fun to learn with friends. New games are coming out every day that can present new challenges for your brain, as well as a refreshing change of pace.

Puzzle Games

Crossword and jigsaw puzzles, as well as Sudoku and Wordle, are a great way to work your brain. Anything that requires a great deal of memory and concentration is good for cognitive function.

A recent study in the Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry showed some promising effects of games that challenge the mind. People who do them regularly have better brain function, equal to someone 10 years younger. 

You can find the examples listed above in physical form, such as in books or newspapers. There are many online options as well, including free apps for smartphones and tablets. 

Learning New Skills

We often associate learning new skills with children or people in the workforce. It is easy to overlook the advantages of seniors learning a new skill or talent. But there are huge cognitive benefits to this.  It can include anything from crafts to learning a new language. Tactile activities, such as crocheting, painting, and building models can be fun and rewarding, in addition to being a great way to challenge the brain.


Most people are aware of the many benefits reading provides. These include learning new information and making the reader more empathetic. It can help you relax and unwind for the day. But reading is also a great workout for your brain. A study published in Neurology showed that people who read keep their minds sharper for longer. Particularly, it demonstrated that reading helps stimulate the capacity for recollection and can help slow conditions associated with memory loss.

Physical Activities

Cognitive games for seniors do not have to exclude physical activities. In fact, they can be a great way to incorporate exercise, so that you are working your body as well as your brain.

Dancing in general is a perfect example of this. It requires movement and cognitive acuity to remember the steps. It can also be a fun, social activity.  Similarly, many reputable senior living communities are merging games with exercise. Scavenger hunts and aquatic games can be a welcomed addition to daily workout routines. These are easy ways to add a cognitive challenge to physical fitness.


Cognitive exercises for seniors do not have to be dedicated activities. Regular socializing is a great way for individuals to use their brains. 

Isolation and loneliness become more common as we age. These can have negative emotional effects, as well as cognitive ones.  On the flip side, regular conversation and companionship are good for the entire body, including the brain. It challenges individuals to think and interact. Developing situations where seniors can more easily engage with others is a seamless way to stimulate brain function.

Learn More Brain Games for Seniors

Now that you understand some brain exercises for seniors you can determine which ones are best for you or your loved one. The possibilities are endless for challenging the aging brain. Any activity that requires concentration is good for the brain and healthy for the individual.

Dimensions Living has multiple distinguished senior living communities that aim to ease the transition between different levels of care, as they are needed. Many of our communities, including those in Appleton and Stevens Point, offer memory care.

Reach out to us today for more information or to schedule a visit.

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