Online brain training programs, applications, and games have been around since before the iPhone. Case in point, industry veteran Lumosity launched in 2005, and Steve Jobs announced the iPhone in 2007. Since that time, a slew of app makers have fielded their own products, but no company has cornered the market or driven down interest in classic pastimes like puzzles, cards and board games, some of which are also noted brain-function boosters.
Research has yet to definitively determine if brain puzzles, games, and training apps improve cognitive function, but some evidence suggests this may be the case. New studies continue to investigate, but even as they do, brain training applications continue to grow in popularity – top apps Elevate, Peak, and Lumosity have over 500,000 Apple App Store reviews combined.
So, whether you or a loved one prefers an app or a “real world” activity, it’s a safe bet there is benefit to picking an app or pastime that is noted as improving cognitive function: Even if hard gains in cognitive function cannot be proven, the joy of self-improvement is a reward unto itself.
Apps are seemingly everywhere now, and while you might not think there are any that would suit your taste or that of a loved one, the diversity is surprising. Some apps incorporate soothing tones and flatter color schemes that are calming and inviting – perfect for a senior loved one who might be beginning to experience the early symptoms of memory loss, dementia or Alzheimer’s. Below are five of the most-mentioned and most-exciting new apps ranked based on popularity, ease of use, and product support. They represent a range of design philosophies, so it is probably best to either explore them with a trusted friend or advisor or, if you are searching for a loved one, by yourself before recommending them:
If a desktop computer or laptop are more to you or a loved one’s liking, there are several online programs that also offer a simple, yet effective way to boost cognitive abilities and memory skills.
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Puzzles exercise both sides of the brain, so players get a solid mental workout. While the left side of the brain may control logical thinking, the right side is generally believed to control creativity (though the brain’s hemispheres may be more fluid than previously believed). Working on a simple puzzle can help improve virtually any cognitive skill — from problem solving and logical reasoning to artistic ability and intuitiveness. Crosswords, word searches, dominoes and jigsaw puzzles all fall into this category.
Card games are also an excellent way to test math, memory, and strategic thinking skills. Bridge, Go Fish, Gin Rummy, and Uno all fit the bill. Uno has the added benefit of being a great game to play with young players, such as grandchildren or other relatives, too.
As with puzzles and card games, playing board games aids in memory formation and complex thought processes. Board games are another great way to practice decision making, strategic thinking and problem solving. Checkers, Chess, Snakes and Ladders, Scrabble, and Bingo are all great choices.
Some of these games also offer a great way to connect and stave off the negative effects of isolation in seniors. They may lower stress levels, increase social awareness, and may even help prevent cognitive decline.
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Baylor College of Medicine blogs: “A perfect match: The health benefits of jigsaw puzzles.”
Scientific American: “Does ‘Brain Training’ Actually Work?”
Harvard Health Blog: “Right brain/left brain, right?”
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