Senior Woman Playing a Card Game with Friends

Mental Fitness: How Puzzles and Games Can Improve Mental Function

Inspīr Senior Living Team

As we age, we hear a lot about the importance of daily physical exercise and the role it plays in reducing our risk of health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. Mental fitness is just as important and can have the same overall effect on our bodies and minds. According to Healthline, mental fitness refers to the overall health of our brain function and emotional wellbeing. Just as we might implement a daily exercise routine to strengthen our physical fitness, experts suggest doing the same with mental exercises. Brain games can help increase focus, concentration, memory, and allow us to be more present in our daily activities. In fact, according to The Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly study, consistent brain training improved targeted skills. For example, participants who worked on problem-solving saw improvements in that area, as did those who trained in focus, visual searches and memory.


Mahjong and Poker

At Inspir Carnegie Hill, we have a dedicated group of residents who enjoy both mahjong and poker. Mahjong stimulates cognitive functions such as memory, concentration, and strategic thinking, providing a gentle yet effective mental workout that can potentially contribute to maintaining cognitive sharpness. The game fosters social connections among seniors, promoting a sense of community and reducing feelings of isolation or loneliness. Its social nature encourages communication, cooperation, and friendly competition, which can enhance overall mood and emotional well-being. Additionally, the tactile aspect of handling the tiles can be beneficial for motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Overall, Mahjong not only serves as a delightful pastime but also contributes to the holistic health of seniors by addressing cognitive, social, and physical aspects of well-being.

Poker goes beyond just a game of chance. Playing poker can provide a mental workout, stimulating strategic thinking, decision-making skills, and memory retention. Due to its strategic nature, it encourages seniors to stay mentally active and focused, contributing to cognitive health. Additionally, poker, like mahjong, is a social activity that promotes interaction and camaraderie among players, fostering a sense of community and companionship. Regular engagement in poker games can help combat feelings of isolation and loneliness, enhancing overall mental well-being. The social dynamics of poker can be a source of enjoyment and stress relief, contributing to a positive mood and emotional resilience. It provides a multifaceted approach to promoting mental acuity, social connections, and emotional well-being for seniors.


Benefits of Puzzles and Brain Games for Older Adults

While there are many different ways to strengthen and train your brain, many older adults find puzzles and games the most fun and effective way to improve overall mental function. In fact, according to a survey conducted by Ipsos, 48 percent of adults enjoy participating in puzzles at least once a year, while one in five adults participate on a monthly, weekly or daily basis. Whether you want to play by yourself or with a group of friends, puzzles and games provide significant benefits to the brain:

  • Problem-solving skills. Puzzles require participants to look for patterns, tests logic, and allows us to make connections. All of these skills can be translated into real-life scenarios, especially when it comes to decision-making. Working on a puzzle can help us improve our ability to recognize patterns, create meaning, find order and work on strategy.
  • Memory and reasoning. Working on a puzzle or playing a problem-solving game actually reinforces the connections between our brain cells and helps us form new ones, which can ultimately improve our short-term memory. When we participate in brain games such as sudoku and jigsaw puzzles, we have to remember numbers, shapes, sizes, and pieces and remember where they fit in as a part of a whole. The more we work to grow new brain connections, the more likely we are to reduce brain changes as they relate to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
  • Enhance your mood. Puzzles increase the production of dopamine, which is our body’s neurotransmitter that regulates our mood, memory and concentration. Each time we successfully complete a puzzle or solve a particularly challenging part of it, our body releases dopamine, which in turn boosts our mood. Puzzles and other brain games can boost our mood, especially when we play with other people. The experience of working together, laughing and sharing common interests can make us feel more connected with others and reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.
  • Provides a sense of control. As we age it’s not uncommon to feel a loss of control and independence, especially if your mobility or cognition declines. Brain exercises can provide a sense of control, especially as individuals begin to see improvement in their overall performance while playing brain games.


The Best Puzzles and Games for Older Adults

It’s never too late to start training your brain and prioritizing your mental fitness! Whether you prefer puzzles or online games, playing alone or with a group, we have some great suggestions on how to get started. Here are a few of the best puzzles and games for older adults, according to Healthline and VeryWell Mind:

  • Sudoku. This is a number placement game that relies on short-term memory. Sudoku requires you to look ahead, recognize patterns and follow sequences. After some practice, these skills will continue to sharpen and will help support short-term memory and concentration. Sudoku is available online or on paper, whichever you prefer.
  • Braingle. This free website offers brain teasers, puzzles, games, optical illusions, codes and ciphers and trivia quizzes. This is a great option for people who want variety and prefer not to pay to play.
  • Wordle. This hugely popular game from The New York times has millions of users worldwide. The objective of the game is to guess a five letter word in six tries. This is a simple way to workout the mind and feel proud of yourself once you’ve solved it.
  • Jigsaw puzzles. Jigsaw puzzles are great ways to use both sides of the brain, exercise your logic, intuition, and creativity. These are especially fun to work on in a social setting with friends and family members.
  • Rubik’s cube. The Rubik’s cube is one of the most popular and famous puzzles. According to Healthline, there are more than 43 quintillion possible moves, making it a stimulating game to play during free minutes.
  • Crossword puzzles. A study found that crossword puzzles can help delay the onset of memory loss in older adults who develop dementia. The practice of working on a crossword puzzle can help improve verbal skills and force you to concentrate on problem-solving.


At Inspir, our experience team is dedicated to crafting personalized experiences that cater to the unique interests of our residents. We believe in fostering a vibrant and inclusive community where everyone can find joy and fulfillment. Recently, the introduction of a new poker table at Inspir Carnegie Hill has proven to be a game-changer, creating an exciting avenue for social interaction and mental stimulation. Witnessing the enthusiastic participation and unwavering concentration of those who have joined the poker club has been truly heartening. This addition not only expands our range of activities but also reflects our commitment to continually enhancing the quality of life for our residents. The poker club at Inspir Carnegie Hill stands as a testament to our dedication to providing dynamic and engaging opportunities that contribute to the well-rounded and fulfilling lifestyle our residents deserve.

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