Shape Up Your Memory with These Brain Games

As we age, our brains change. At age 60 our brains process and interpret information two to three times slower than when we were 20. This means the information that we can remember is two to three times more obscure and difficult to recall, according to Michael Merzenich, Ph.D., a professor in the Keck Center for Integrative Neurosciences at the University of California at San Francisco. By the time we reach age 80, our memory intake could be five to eight times slower.

While memory loss and a decline in mental abilities as we age can be due to many factors, the good news is that there are plenty of ways to keep our brains in shape!

Researchers at Stanford University found that memory loss can be improved by 30 to 50 percent simply by doing mental exercises. Much like any other muscle in our bodies, the brain needs regular workouts or its functions will decline. Mental activity helps improve neuroplasticity, your brain’s potential to reorganize and create new neural pathways that adapt and change to meet your needs. By focusing on something new or challenging, such as learning a new language or playing a challenging game, our brains create new neural connections, which help us sharpen our new skill and thus improve our mind.

So why is keeping a sharp mind important as we age? It allows us to keep our reasoning and reaction time sharp, have stimulating social lives, and keep stress hormones under control that in excess can be harmful to neurons, creating disease and a shortened lifespan.

Today we have access to a growing supply of online and offline brain games and brain-training exercises that have been proven to help our brains grow new, stronger neural connections. Research even suggests that intellectual stimulation is associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Keep your brain sharp with a blend of consistency and challenge. Make playing memory games part of your daily and weekly routine with some of these top games and resources:

AARP’s Staying Sharp
In addition to their regular lineup of online games, AARP’s Staying Sharp includes a brain health assessment, brain healthy articles, recipes, a tracking tool, and a lineup of memory-improving games such as Split Words, Sleight of Hands, Tower of Babel, and Find the Right Match — all of which have received great reviews from their users.

Ever try using your non-dominant hand for a day to eat or brush your teeth? Or light a scented candle and play music while thinking about your favorite vacation place? The book Keep Your Brain Alive, by Dr. Lawrence C. Katz, Ph.D. and Manning Robin, outlines 83 “neurobic” exercises – daily brain aerobics that use the five senses in unusual ways – that are scientifically proven to help your brain produce natural growth factors called neurotrophins that help fight off the effects of mental aging.

A leader in the brain training arena, NeuroNation offers over 60 exercises and nine personalized courses that train various brain functions on a daily basis to improve your working memory and cognition. The exercises are brain-training games and puzzles that have been scientifically proven to strengthen your brain. Personalized courses will adapt to your skill level based on performance in order to deliver optimal results. These courses will become increasingly difficult as you advance through the exercises to avoid plateauing, but will not overwhelm you. This app was developed in cooperation with top international scientists, incorporating the latest findings in Neuroscience and Cognitive Psychology. NeuroNation continuously adapts to your performance, keeping you challenged but not overwhelmed. Progress evaluations let you know your progress as well as strengths and weaknesses so you stay motivated. Making you smarter and keeping you challenged is the name of their game. NeuroNation’s “gym for the mind” can be accessed via web or app.

Fit Brain Trainer
Fit Brains, a website that claims to have the biggest variety of brain-training games on the web, features games that sharpen not only your cognitive skills, such as memory attention and speed, but your emotional intelligence as well. Games are short, quick and challenging, and for competitive types, you can track your personal bests, progress and training streaks as well as compare your scores to other Fit Brains users. With 60 plus games to choose from, you can sign up for a free trial or upgrade to one of their premium packages with pricing based on how often you want to pay.

Different from many brain-training apps, Clevermind is a voice-activated iPad app to help stimulate the cognitive abilities of seniors and, in particular, people with Alzheimer’s or dementia. In addition to a collection of entertaining games and mind-sharpening trivia, Clevermind features nutrition and exercise information, links to social media, news, music, movies and audiobooks, and includes a Writing & Pictures category to write, keep track of personal goals and store your photos and videos. Clevermind is available through Apple’s App Store.

These are just a few of the top brain game and brain-training resources and apps on the market today. Just search “brain games for seniors” and have fun exploring!