January 29, 2021 is National Puzzle Day and we’re here to help you celebrate! Puzzles actually encompass a number of games that require players to strategically assemble pieces to create a complete structure including word searches, jigsaw puzzles, Sudoku, crossword puzzles, 3D structure puzzles, and even Rubik’s cubes. Puzzles require concentration, problem solving skills, and hand-eye coordination which make them the perfect brain games to help seniors slow brain aging.

Senior home care supports the elderly man smiling while doing a crossword puzzle.

Forgetfulness and Aging

In their article Do Memory Problems Always Mean Alzheimer’s Disease? the National Institute on Aging explains that forgetfulness can be a normal part of aging. As bodies age, changes occur across the board, including in the brain. For many seniors, it may take longer to learn new skills, it can be more difficult to retain information, and losing track of everyday items can become commonplace. But according to NIH, these are usually signs of mind forgetfulness, not serious memory problems, like Alzheimer’s disease.

Slowing Down the Brain Aging Process

Monica Heltemes, occupational therapist and founder of MindStart, explains there are obvious benefits for seniors working with puzzles. Puzzles help to stimulate the mind and work to build patience during the problem-solving process. But there are several, less obvious but equally important benefits, including:

  • Using and developing fine motor skills as seniors manipulate pieces or writing utensils to solve puzzles
  • Strengthening visual perceptual skills while seniors cognitively connect images with pieces and visualize how they might fit together, adjusting as needed, to find the correct solution
  • Encouraging self-satisfaction by offering seniors an accessible activity that most anyone can do
  • Creating important opportunities for socialization through which seniors can avoid the negative effects of isolation and loneliness
Close-up of elderly hands assembling a jigsaw puzzle on a wooden table, exemplifying senior care activities.

Getting Started

Getting puzzles for the seniors in your life can be as easy as heading to your local department store. Major stores like Target and Walmart have a number of puzzles to choose from, that range in difficulty, right in their boardgame aisles. Start slow and find puzzles that are not too difficult to help your loved one get the hang of it. You can also use the internet and online retailers like Amazon to find brain games and other puzzles specially designed for seniors. Use National Puzzle Day as a fun way to introduce this beneficial and enjoyable hobby to your loved one!