By Donna McHugh, Regional Director, Community Partnerships on Apr 2, 2021 2:46:33 PM
If you spend a lot of time with an aging loved one, you may notice them becoming a bit more forgetful or misplacing things. While frequent forgetfulness or severe memory loss may be a sign of Alzheimer’s disease, some forgetfulness is a normal part of aging. It may not be entirely preventable, there are things you can do to slow down the process.
Much like the body, keeping the brain active is important at all stages of life. Brain games and puzzles serve as mental exercise that reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline. Brain exercises provide a simple way to improve your memory and problem-solving skills.
There are a number of factors that make certain games ideal for older adults:
- Formats. You’ll find brain games in plenty of different formats, from classic board games to word puzzles and even online video games that can provide opportunities for social interaction. For your convenience, we’ve broken them down into a few different categories. Whether an older adult prefers to play on their cell phone or tablet, on a computer, or in a book, caregivers will find suitable brain training games for their loved one on this list.
- Difficulty level. It’s important for caregivers to find games that are challenging but not overly frustrating. If you’re looking for brain games for a loved one who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, for instance, you’ll want to choose brain exercises and games that aren’t impossible to complete at their current cognitive level. Start slowly with some beginner puzzles and gradually progress to harder puzzles for more challenging problem-solving tasks.
- Monthly fees. Some of the apps and desktop programs require a monthly fee to play. They usually provide more in-depth features like tracking, personalized training programs, and support. These types of programs aren’t for everyone, though they are quite effective.
- Type of game. Pick games that a loved one enjoys fun playing. If they absolutely hate Sudoku, do them a favor and don’t buy Sudoku puzzles. There are many types of brain games to choose from, so there’s no reason to force yourself to do something you don’t enjoy. At the same time, it is important to vary the types of brain training games you do. If they’re looking for more social interaction, for instance, look for brain training games that you can play with others – either online or in person.
This website has a variety of different games to get your brain working and flex your problem-solving muscles. Looking for a memory game? Or maybe you’re more inclined to answer some logic and math questions. Whatever it is, you’ll find plenty of options on BrainCurls.
- Series of different games
- Completely free
- Simple to access and play
A comprehensive list of 25 different brain teasers and memory games. The list is filled with games, illusions, riddles, and other tasks that will work your brain. It’s a great resource for those looking to exercise their brain, such as those who want to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, but aren’t sure what types of tasks they’re interested in.
- 25 different brain teasers
- Includes optical illusions
- Easy to navigate
An online, web-based version of a word search. It’s a classic game that’s loved by everyone, and this version is completely free, with a new puzzle introduced every day. There are word searches at different difficulty levels (each daily puzzle is offered in three different variations), so it’s excellent for beginners and pros alike.
- Classic word search
- New puzzle every day
- Different difficulty levels
A free brain training flash game that mixes memory games, logic, and number games to introduce a new puzzle every day. Aside from playing the daily challenges, you can train yourself on any of the games and even track your scores, monitoring your progress.
- Different brain-training challenges each day
- Track your scores
- Training mode
A cult classic, Tetris is available online and can be played completely free. What was once a simple childhood game serves a dual purpose for older adults as entertainment that also trains your brain. It’s a fun, competitive game that’ll bring you back to your youth.
- Competitive, tracks scores and has a leaderboard
- Simple to play
- Gets more challenging as you go
A tried-and-true card game comes to the web. Solitaire, the popular card game you can play by yourself, trains your brain to notice patterns and gives your memory a workout. This is a simple, no-frills online version of the game that’s easy to jump into.
- Classic version of the game
- No ads or distractions
- Can be played independently
Test your knowledge and recall ability with a crossword puzzle. It’s another classic game that’s available online, with a new crossword to complete every day. You can also browse through crossword puzzles from previous days to complete as many puzzles as you like.
- New crossword every day
- Easy to access
- Can play old puzzles
An online resource with 24 versions of a matching card game, Memozor is great for testing your memory. It’s completely free and you can play it as much as you want with no restrictions. If you get bored with one version, try another!
- Many different matching memory games
- Play alone or against the computer
- Free with unlimited access
An online version of classic chess. Challenge a computer or your friends online and see who’s the best player. Compared to checkers, it’s more strategic and requires players to think quickly while using each piece to its advantage.
- Online chess with computer or real opponents
- Has chess lessons as well
- Helps you get better at the game
Checkers is another one of those classic games that everyone has played before. It’s a little less strategic than chess, but still requires you to think ahead and predict your opponent’s moves.
- Can play with a computer on different difficulty settings
- Has a two-player option
- Easy to play
TriviaPlaza is a one-stop-shop for all things trivia. It’s a place where you can test your knowledge of just about anything, exercising your brainpower and forcing you to recall knowledge. Play word trivia, or try your luck at your favorite movie trivia.
- Tons of different types of trivia
- Simple navigation
- Can play to beat the average score
Jigsaw puzzles are one of the best brain exercises for older adults. They force you to use parts of your brain you don’t use often, and this website has hundreds of free puzzles to choose from. Start small with an easy puzzle and work your way up to doing 5,000-piece puzzles.
- Hundreds of puzzles to choose from
- Different difficulty puzzles, perfect for all skill types
- Mystery puzzle available every day
Apps and Memory Games
13. Wheel of Fortune
An app version of everyone’s favorite game show, Wheel of Fortune. It may be one of the best word games in the world, and aside from training your brain, it’s a ton of fun and won’t feel like a chore. The perfect option if you want a fun brain training task.
- Word game
- Different versions of the game
- Competitive mode
Lumosity may be the most successful brain game provider in the world. They have an app that’s available on iOS and Android as well as a free and premium membership version offering personalized brain training programs. The free version includes three brain training games a day, while the premium subscription gives you an additional three a day, plus access to web-based games and progress-monitoring tools.
- Over 60 brain training games
- Tracks your metrics
- Backed by science
Price: Free to start; $11.99/month or $59.99/year for premium
As one of Apple’s Apps of the Year, Elevate is another premium brain training app that’s more of a system than a one-off game. It will help you build your analytical and communication skills through personalized brain training programs. The free version gives you access to three games a day, much like Lumosity, while the premium version gives you access to eight extra games.
- Access to 35+ games at any time with the premium membership
- Adjusts over time to maximize your results
- Includes metrics and tracking
Price: Free to start; $5/month or $45/year for premium
CogniFit is a healthcare company with their very own app designed to strengthen cognitive health. Their app is accompanied by web games, all backed by science. They perform a battery of tests to see where your baseline is and provide you with games and tasks to strengthen your skills.
- Assesses over 20 cognitive skills
- Developed by neuroscience experts
- Available on iOS and Android
Price: Free with in-app purchases; premium subscriptions $19.99/month or $119.99/year
This app is a bit different from the rest. It’s a brain game that’s focused on improving your mental health by reducing your anxiety and stress. The game uses principles based on 20 years of clinical and neuroscience research and has been found to be effective in clinical studies. Regular use is said to help improve your mental health in the long term, although a single session can help you reduce stress and feelings of anxiety.
- Relieves anxiety and stress
- A simple game to play
- Apps available for iOS and Android
A free app that includes plenty of brain training games to build your memory, attention, and critical thinking skills. The app gives you three new games every day to keep things interesting. You’ll want to come back to the app every day to try the new games. You can also subscribe to a premium version to access more than 50 cognitive training games to stimulate attention, memory, problem solving, and other cognitive functions.
- New games daily
- Share scores online and challenge friends
- Tests of memory, attention, and critical thinking
Price: Free with in-app purchases, premium subscriptions range from $1.99 to $399 for the online and mobile service
Happify is another kind of app that can actually improve your mental health and make you happier. It uses principles based on mindfulness and positive psychology to slowly but surely change your mindset. It’s free to start, so you can give it a try and see if it’s for you before subscribing.
- Exercises to improve emotional health
- Techniques have proven to work by scientists
- Engaging activities and games can be used anywhere
Price: Free to start; subscription plans start at $11.67/month
20. Neuro Nation
Neuro Nation performs an analysis to assess your strengths and potential, creating a personal training plan to meet your needs, and it’s available on the App Store and Google Play. Overall, there are more than 30 brain exercises on 250 levels scientifically designed to help improve memory, reduce stress, improve thinking speed and concentration, and more, with new exercises and courses published regularly.
- 30 brain training exercises on 250 levels
- Personalized brain training program
- Developed in collaboration with scientific and research partners
Price: Free version available with in-app purchases, paid plans start at $6.99/month
With a few free games, Peak allows you to dip your toes in the water before committing to their full plan. If you’re serious about brain training, you can get access to all of their games and tracking metrics for a low price. Peak is available on the App Store and Google Play.
- Games that are both fun and educational
- Builds your cognitive skills
- Tracks your metrics
Price: Free to start; $6.99/month
The games on this app (available on the App Store or on the web) are designed by industry experts and accredited by Mensa, ensuring that users get results. They target five disciplines, including memory, concentration, agility, perception, and reasoning; all fields that older adults should maintain as they age. Aside from that, the app has an intuitive design.
- Challenging exercises developed by industry experts
- Five disciplines: memory, concentration, agility, perception, reasoning
- Intuitive design
Price: Free with in-app purchases; subscriptions start at $3.99/quarter
23. 4 Pics 1 Word
4 Pics 1 Word displays four pictures with something in common, which is the word you have to guess. You can play it endlessly without ever doing the same puzzle twice. The game has been downloaded over 250,000,000 times.
- Addictive gameplay
- Word guessing game
- Unlock new levels as you guess correctly
Price: Free; in-app purchases
Sudoku is a classic loved by many. It’s a number game that really trains your brain, and regularly playing the game will definitely pay off in the long run. This app version offers thousands of puzzles with varying levels of difficulty, and there’s an online leaderboard with score tracking. If an aging loved one enjoys crossword puzzles, they might love Sudoku, too.
- Classic Sudoku
- Online leaderboards, score tracking
- Different difficulty levels
Not your standard brain training app, Duolingo allows you to learn another language at your own pace through interactive games and lessons. Learning another language is proven to help improve brain health, especially in older age. A wide selection of languages are available to learn.
- Can teach you just about any language
- Gamified so it’s always fun
- Available on every platform
Price: Free to start; Duolingo Plus subscriptions start at $12.99
Memorado is a cheaper alternative to other brain training apps, but it’s still highly effective. It starts with an assessment, then provides you with a personalized training schedule consisting of five daily games and tasks you can do on the app (available on the App Store and Google Play) or online.
- Five fields: speed, concentration, memory, reaction, logic
- Set your own goals on the program and monitor progress in the app
- Personalized training schedule
Price: Free to start; Premium plans start at $1.99
Memrise is another app that focuses on teaching you a new language through videos and audio clips featuring native speakers, games, and fun activities. You can access the app on both Google Play and the App Store or the web. With the Pro subscription, you get complete access to everything.
- Tons of videos to access
- Can learn using an app or on the website
- Learning engine adapts difficulty to learner’s needs
Price: Free to start; Premium plans $8.99/month and up
BrainHQ is “raising the bar on brain training” with training designed to exercise memory, attention, intelligence, navigation, brain speed, and people skills. The brain training program offered by BrainHQ is the based on 30 years of research in neuroscience and related fields. The difficulty of the exercises adjusts as you work, so that you’re always training at the optimal level. You can try a few exercises for free to test it out before subscribing.
- 29 online exercises
- Use it on any device
- Personalized trainer designed by scientists
Price: $8/month (annual) or $14/month (monthly)
29. Hidden Objects
Hidden Objects challenges you to locate objects in difficult puzzles, which trains your brain to identify and recognize details. It’s perfect for fans of “Where’s Waldo,” and you can play for free.
- Find hidden objects
- Quests and riddles to complete
- Free to play, can pay for unlimited access
Smart Brain provides a plethora of logic and brain puzzles that are excellent for developing and strengthening your brain. Completing puzzles, challenges, and games with increasing difficulty can help improve memory, concentration, and reaction time, so it’s a good choice for older adults who want to reduce the risk of memory loss and cognitive decline.
- Over 200 levels
- Hundreds of puzzles
- Emoji quiz to test your IQ
Price: Free with in-app purchases
Sudoku, Trivia & Puzzle Books
The classic crossword game in tried-and-true booklet form. This contains over 200 puzzles created by USA Today, which range from easy to difficult. If you prefer to do them in booklets as opposed to on an app, this is a great one to start with. You can purchase this book of crossword puzzles along with many others on Amazon.
- Over 200 puzzles
- Classic puzzles from USA Today
- Can write and draw in the margins for notes
32. Word Search
Word searches are another tried-and-true game you can participate in to get your brain working. If you’re more inclined to do puzzles on paper rather than an app, this book is perfect for you. There are 1,000 puzzles, so it’ll last a while even for the most rigorous word-searching enthusiast. There are plenty of other word search books available on Amazon as well, including some with large print for older adults who are visually impaired.
- Printed on high-quality paper
- Easy to read font
- 1,000 puzzles
Your classic Sudoku in booklet form. This book has over 300 puzzles, providing you with a great mental workout. There are pro and beginner puzzles for every skill level. The pages are large, with room to write notes.
- Over 300 puzzles
- Great mental workout
- Beginner and pro puzzles
This book is full of different games, puzzles, and trivia challenges to boost brain power and reduce brain age. To keep it exciting, all the games are different and the book is organized from easiest to most difficult.
- 399 different games for variety
- Arranged from easiest to most difficult
- Vetted by a neuroscientist
Brain Games was created to exercise the brain and provide a different type of experience from other brain puzzle books. It has over 12 different types of games and gradually gets more difficult.
- Different types of puzzles including mazes, drawing exercises, anagrams, and crosswords
- Puzzles get more difficult as you progress
- Great for on the go use
This book will keep you engaged with some of the most popular brain teasers throughout history from around the world. Aside from that, the authors also provide interesting historical facts. Puzzles are organized easiest to hardest.
- 125 different brain teasers
- Provides historical facts and background information so you’re always learning
- Different difficulty levels
37. Logic Puzzles
If you’re ready for something a bit more challenging than brain teasers, this set of logic puzzles is made for those with puzzle-solving experience. They range from easy to hard, and the book does a good job of explaining how to find the solutions.
- Challenging logic puzzles
- Includes solutions to every puzzle
- Explains the answers so you understand how to solve them yourself in the future
38. Where’s Waldo
Nearly everyone recognizes the famous Waldo, who has been hiding in plain sight in a variety of scenes for more than 25 years. This deluxe edition, issued to commemorate Waldo’s 25th anniversary, features new things to search for, a new visual checklist on every spread, and a never-before seen section of artwork on every spread to keep you searching in earnest for hours.
- Classic Where’s Waldo puzzles
- Includes a new spot-the-difference game
- New things to search for
Price: $16.61 (hardcover), $7.03 (paperback)
Board and Card Games
For those who prefer the classic card game to the web-based version. You can add some variations to the game to spice it up.
- Can be played alone
- Different versions can be played
- Relaxing at the same time
Price: All you need is a deck of cards!
What may be one of the most popular board games of the decade, Catan is not only fun, but it also provides ample opportunity to train your brain. You have to strategize against your opponents, track resources, and plan how you’re going to win. There’s no point at which you aren’t thinking ahead.
- Provides hundreds of hours of fun for everyone
- Train your brain while strategizing and tracking resources
- Great for playing with friends
Another wildly popular board game, Clue puts you in the detective seat as you try and figure out who committed the murder using the clues given. It’s a puzzle game like no other filled, with competition and non-stop fun.
- Detective game where you figure out who committed the murder
- Retro art
- Play with friends
You may not think of Monopoly as a game to train your brain, but it requires a lot of thinking ahead. Tracking your money is one part of the game that requires mental exercise and strategizing.
- Classic board game version
- New token line-up
- Buy properties, track your money, and strategize
43. Ticket to Ride
Ticket to Ride is a popular specialty board game use their color-coded train pieces to connect one place on the map to another for points. The winner is the one who earns the most points connecting routes. The map is made up of real places, and challenges each player to plot the best routes while blocking the competition.
- Build your train routes to connect to different places on the map
- Uses real locations, which may trigger memories
- Competitive but fun
This board game forces you to sketch out concepts and scenarios to be guessed by other players, and vice versa. It’s a fun game that’ll keep you and your loved one laughing while providing a bit of mental exercise.
- Sketch drawings and try to guess others’ pictures
- Over 1,700 words to guess
- Classic game of telephone but with pictures
Bridge has been around since the 1930s, and may be one of the most popular card games in the world. It involves each player attempting to score points by defeating your opponents’ hands. Strategizing and predicting other players’ movements provide a mental workout.
- Popular card game since 1930
- Exercises your brain by keeping track of bids and strategizing, predicting other players’ hands
- A really fun game
Price: All you need is a deck of cards!
46. Connect 4
Connect 4 is a pretty simple and quick game you can play with anyone. It involves putting pieces into a grid in an attempt to connect four pieces of your color. Find the perfect balance between blocking your opponent and securing your own opportunity to connect four.
- Easy to play
- Teaches you to look for patterns and plan ahead
- Quick games
Scrabble is one of those games you either love or hate, but the truth is that you can learn a lot from playing. Racking your brain for words you’ve long forgotten, learning new words, and practicing your spelling lead to a competitive (and entertaining) match.
- Classic word game
- Competitive, fun, and educational at the same time
- Helps you expand your vocabulary
48. Crazy Eights
A tried-and-true card game, Crazy Eights is always a good time. You can play with just two people or more than five. The goal is to get rid of your hand before your opponents by matching suits and patterns. It takes some strategizing to know when to drop your cards.
- Be the first player to get rid of all the cards
- Predicting movements and matching suits and patterns
- Quick games
Price: A deck of cards is all you need
Backgammon relies on arithmetic and strategy (as well as some luck) to win, and the games are relatively short. Many older adults love this addictive strategic game as a source of mental exercise.
- Beautifully made Backgammon board
- Available in different sizes
- Relies on arithmetic and strategy
This affordable checkers set takes the game offline with a board and pieces that will withstand the test of time. To win, you’ll need to put your strategy and planning skills to work.
- Classic board game with a high-quality design
- Involves strategy and planning
As with checkers, many would rather play chess on a real board. Nothing beats the feel of maneuvering pieces to knock out your opponent. To be good at chess, you need to use each piece to its best advantage.
- Large board and pieces for easy playing
- Quality wooden design
- Handcrafted pieces