Half of American seniors say they often feel lonely. That’s the first reason that seniors should play games. But there are many more because loneliness doesn’t just affect your moods; it affects every part of you. Loneliness can lead to cognitive decline. On top of that, according to a new study of social isolation published in the Journal of the American Heart Association in May, loneliness can affect your health and especially your heart.
That’s why playing games is so important. There are plenty of games for seniors that can help you feel healthy and happy.
Brain games improve attention span and slow mental decline. In fact, studies show that seniors who play brain games decrease the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other dementia by 75%. Popular options include Sudoku, chess, puzzles, word games.
- Sudoku In these number puzzles you need to find unpredictable patterns. Sudoku trains the mind to use logic and reasoning skills.
- Chess Playing chess may actually increase intelligence. According to a study conducted in Venezuela over several years, children who took chess classes for just 4 ½ months increased their IQ scores.
- Puzzles Putting together a puzzle helps you recognize patterns and see the bigger picture. But puzzles aren’t just good for the mind. When you work on a puzzle, you lower your rate of breathing and reduce your heart rate and blood pressure. This all makes you feel calmer. Remember feeling relaxed after spending a rainy afternoon doing puzzles with your children?
- Word games All of us can benefit from word games. Seniors with memory loss especially benefit fill-in-the-blank word games. These games can help them retain language skills and vocabulary.
- Card games Sometimes slow is best. Card games like Uno come with complex rules. For seniors with memory challenges, try playing a simplified version of a game. As they improve their game, slowly add in more complex rules.
You don’t have to be a marathon runner to get the benefits of physical exercise. Physical games improve strength, balance and movement. Think of games like lawn darts. The long periods spent standing improve balance, visual perception, arm strength, and motor skills.
Playing games is a great way to meet people and make new friends. If you are shy or haven’t been socializing much, playing a game is a good way to build up your social skills. You don’t have to find something to talk about, because you’re too busy playing. If you aren’t interested in the specific game being played, you can still watch. Watching isn’t as much fun as playing, but you’ll still have the chance to make new friends.
And one last word: Winning at a game isn’t important. You’re taking part to have fun!