A pile of puzzle pieces for cognitive activities for the elderly

Cognitive Activities and Exercises For Seniors

As time progresses, many of us understand the importance of keeping the mind and body sharp. Cognitive and physical ability may weaken with age, so making sure that you stimulate your cognition and keep your joints moving can help reduce the risk of injury in the future. With that in mind, you don’t need to wait until you’ve hit an older age to keep your brain and body in check! In fact, there are some fun activities that you can do with your elderly loved ones that will benefit you just as much as it does them. Need some ideas? Here are some fun activities and exercises that will keep your mind strong.

Activities To Strengthen Memory

Especially for people with dementia, memory is one of the first signs of cognitive decline with age. You can try to improve your recollection skills by strengthening the cognitive reserve. This refers to individual differences in how tasks are performed that might allow some people to be more resilient than others. Enhancing the cognitive reserve holds promise that it might be able to slow cognitive aging or even reduce the risk of dementia. So, don’t forget to make time for some of these memory-supporting activities!

Put Together a Photo Album

If your loved one has dementia and is beginning to forget people or important moments in their lives, assembling a photo album is one of the best activities you can do with them.  For one, the act of putting together the photos and organizing them is a great way to keep their hands busy. But on top of that, you can reminisce about the people and events that are taking place in each photo. You might even learn something new about them. The best part is that they can keep this album and refer to it whenever they’d like, which might help to remind them of familiar faces. You can put stickers of people’s names next to each photo and maybe include their relationship to them so that they’ll be able to recall more of the people who have meant so much to them.

Card Matching Game

Long term memory isn’t the only thing that’s affected by old age — short term memory can decrease as well. But this fun card matching game might be able to strengthen short term memory. At the very least, it can give you a sense of how well your loved one is still able to complete simple memory tasks. Get about eight to ten pairs of cards and lay them all face down on the table randomly in a grid. Pick any two cards at a time and see if they match. If they do, keep them face up. But if they don’t, put them face down again. You can increase the number of pairs to try to improve memory gradually over time. This is a fun and simple game that you can complete with your loved ones, working together to try to match all of the pairs as fast as you can.

Activities To Improve Attention

Older individuals often get distracted very easily or have trouble focusing on certain activities. You can try to help them improve their sense of focus by giving them a fun activity to do that will engage them for a long period of time.

Jigsaw Puzzles

Jigsaw puzzles are one of the best activities for elderly individuals to keep their minds focused. Based on their level of cognition, you can find puzzles that range as high as 1000 pieces to as low as 25. Jigsaws keep their hands busy just as much as their minds. Plus, if physical disabilities prevent them from moving around, these can be completed while seated at a table.  One of the best things about a jigsaw is the sense of satisfaction that comes from completing the picture. It can give your loved one a sense of purpose. Plus, they’re great group activities for your whole family to participate in.

Word Games

Crossword puzzles are great ways to strengthen your attention, and even your memory, because it requires a number of cognitive processes to complete. For one, you need to figure out the puzzle clues themselves. But then, you also need to make sure you spell the words correctly in the puzzle itself. Typical crossword puzzles that you find in a newspaper may be a bit advanced and pop culture-heavy for some older individuals. It might be better to keep those for yourself and give your older loved ones different crosswords that are better-suited for older populations. If they don’t love crossword puzzles, word searches are another great word game that will encourage them to focus their attention.

Coloring Book

Coloring books aren’t just for children. In fact, adult coloring has become a very popular pastime for many people. These usually feature more complex designs and shapes when compared to those that are meant for children. Adult coloring books encourage mindfulness and focus, which can help to soothe feelings of anxiety and restlessness. It can also give your loved one the ability to flex their creative muscles and design a work of art. Do a coloring page with them and enjoy a day of arts, crafts, and fun memories.

Activities To Engage the Senses

Stimulating your five senses (touch, taste, sight, smell, and sound) is essential for properly perceiving your reality as a whole. As you age, you can start to lose your ability to use these senses, which is why it’s important to complete activities that enhance them.

Nature Walking

If your loved one is able, you can take them for a walk through a trail in the woods or along the beach. Hearing the sounds of nature, smelling fresh cut grass, or seeing wildlife can help soothe and comfort older people. Not to mention, it gets them out of the house so they can see something new (or comfortably familiar). Not to mention, it gives them some physical exercise as well. Physical exercise is just as essential as cognitive exercise for seniors, and it doesn’t need to be strenuous. Something as simple as going for a walk once a day can help maintain the ability to live independently, reduce blood pressure, help with chronic conditions, and much more.

Animal Therapy

As you age, cognitive disability can make it difficult and even unsafe to own a pet, but that doesn’t mean that seniors don’t want to be able to hang out with a furry friend every now and then. In fact, animal assisted therapy is popular among people with dementia to improve some of their dementia symptoms. Animals can decrease levels of loneliness and increase levels of comfort and relaxation. The act of simply seeing or petting a dog or a cat can help improve the mood and behavior of elderly individuals in ways that many other therapies are unable. Bring your furry friend over to your loved one’s home the next time you visit. Or if they’re at a care facility, see if they can make arrangements to bring in therapy animals one day to try to brighten your loved one’s day.

Bake Some Cookies

Baking and cooking is a great activity to help engage the senses, and it’s also the perfect activity to do with others. You can work together to bake a cake, cookies, or even cook a nice meal. Not only will the smells and tastes help to stimulate their cognition, but the immediate reward of receiving a tasty treat after completion is really satisfying. It can give seniors a sense of purpose while also keeping them busy for an extended period.

In Conclusion

Cognitive disability can occur with age, and it’s important to keep your brain functioning properly with mind strengthening activities.  It’s easy to become forgetful as you grow older, but you can strengthen your recollection abilities by assembling a photo album or playing a fun card matching game. Also, seniors might struggle to hold their attention on a given activity. You can try to improve their focus by playing word games or building a jigsaw puzzle. Maybe even try adult coloring. For some physical activity that helps with sensation, it’s always great to go for a walk in nature. You can also cook or bake to give your loved one a sense of purpose and immediate reward for a job well done. If you need some help coming up with ways to engage with your loved one to improve their cognition, Lightyear Health’s team of specialists has plenty of experience.  Contact us to see how we can help you and your family lead happier, healthier lives. Sources: Cognitive reserve in ageing and Alzheimer’s disease | NCBI Older Adults | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Animal‐assisted therapy for dementia | NCBI

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