Mind Games

By Chelle Cordero

December 27, 2016 5 min read

Forget it. You can no longer blame memory loss on getting older. So-called senior moments can also happen for people who are under extreme stress, suffering from a chronic disease, depressed, malnourished, inactive, overscheduled or just plain bored. If you are experiencing difficulty with memory, don't let it get you down. There are lots of things you can do to help preserve your brainpower and keep your mind sharp.

Whether it seems obvious or not, physical health plays a big role in mental health. Remaining physically active as you age will encourage oxygenated blood to reach the brain. Additionally, proper and balanced nutrition will provide natural chemicals and enzymes to keep your brain healthy. And proper sleep and rest will allow your brain to rest and function better.

Beyond that, myriad other pursuits can help grease the cogs, energize the brain and help with the flow of thoughts, including reading, social activities, puzzles, strategy games, entertainment and creative pursuits. There's no right or wrong choice. Think about your passions and skills, or perhaps passions and skills you'd like to explore. When you've chosen something, join a group or take a class. Free classes are often offered at libraries, senior centers and community colleges, not to mention online via webinars.

Card games such as solitaire, puzzles such as sudoku and crosswords, word scrambles, memory games, and cryptograms exercise the mind. There's a little something for everyone in that these activities are available in print and digital formats. Numerous computer cognitive brain exercises are available with or without access to the internet. Even the National Security Agency has lent an app to the mix: CryptoChallenge, which invites the user to crack a code. The app is free for download for iPhone and Android.

Lumosity is a well-known brainteaser site run by Lumos Labs. A team of researchers and game designers creates challenging cognitive and neuropsychological programs for both online and mobile use. They also offer free programs for all ages worldwide in English, Spanish, French, German, Japanese, Korean and Portuguese.

Fit Brains Trainer is a free brain-training app by Rosetta Stone Canada Inc. It's downloadable from iTunes and offers tons of games targeting major areas of the brain: memory, speed of thinking, concentration, problem-solving, language and visual-spatial. The user finishes a task in each category every day, and the app keeps a progress record.

Happify, another free app, offers activities and games for stress and anxiety support. It has quizzes, polls and gratitude journals, which work on the basis of positive psychology to control stress and emotions.

Stress and negative emotions affect memory and emotional and physical well-being. ReliefLink was designed to support and improve mental health, specifically to prevent suicide. In cases of extreme stress, the app helps by offering coping mechanisms and mindfulness and relaxation exercises. There is also a feature for listing medication and setting appointment reminders.

If you are looking for a way to learn and remember telephone numbers, bank information, quotes and useful facts, take a look at Eidetic for iOS systems. This free app uses spaced repetition and built-in flashcards to help you memorize important information.

Google terms like "brain games," "cognitive exercises" and "memory builders" to find many more online sites and downloadable apps. Some of these apps are free, others have free trials or free limited use, and others have generally low prices to register or download.

There may be some thought or memory loss with age, but keeping your brain busy will help to you keep the mobility, thought and independence that becomes very precious as you reach the golden years. If there is a concerning level of confusion or forgetfulness, it would be wise to consult your health care provider to make sure that there are no underlying health concerns, such as Alzheimer's disease or dementia.

It is a statistical fact that people who maintain a positive attitude generally live longer and healthier lives. It's never too early to begin exercising your brain. With these apps and activities, you'll be one step closer to feeling golden during your golden years.

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