Mental Exercise Games and Activities for the Elderly

As our body ages, so does our brain which increases the risk for cognitive decline. This can lead to detrimental effects such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and other ailments concerned with neurodegenerative problems.

What Can We Do About It?

Although aging itself is inevitable, there are ways to slow its descent. Of course physical exercise helps keep the body going but another method is to have a mental workout. As the common saying goes, “use it or lose it.”

Some researchers tackled the belief that an individual can improve or reduce the downturn of their mental performance by immersing themselves with brain workouts. By doing so, mental capacity can be strengthened similar to how we build muscle when we lift weights. This increases dopamine, engages neurotransmitters, and improves the development of brain cells that could aid in sharpening the mind.

Below are some ways to help older adults stimulate their minds and establish a “cognitive reserve.” These activities are divided into two sections. The first one being social activities requiring a group of two or more people while the other is more suited for tasks an individual can perform alone.

It is important to get to know the person and their interests before doing any of these activities. This will ensure that the older adult you are helping would not only benefit from the venture, but will also feel satisfaction and enjoyment.

Social  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  Individual  11  12  13  14

Social Games


This game improves concentration through listening and short term memory skills. It is also associated with numbers which activates the motor systems of the brain. Moreover, it promotes socialization which is essential for many seniors to have a happy and satisfying lifestyle.

Each player is given a card with several numbers. Throughout the game someone will be calling numbers out. The only thing the players have to do is scratch the number out if the one called matches one of the ones on their cards. Whoever fills out a straight line of five numbers first wins that round. Prizes are given to the winner of at least three people in every game which makes it even more fun and competitive.

This website has BINGO cards available to print for free along with many other useful resources catered towards providing fun and stimulating activities for the elderly. If you need an all in one resource for entertaining a group of seniors, this site has you covered.

2. Penny Ante Game

This game engages the players to get to know each other more and relive their memories based on the questions provided on a set of cards.

Each of the players are provided with a set number of pennies. The objective is to gain more pennies than the other players. A question/statement card is provided with instructions on whether to keep or give away pennies. For example, if a card says “Give two pennies to someone who traveled to France,” Then anyone in the group who traveled to France redeems two pennies. This also gives them the chance to reminisce about or discuss their trip to France with others. 

UNO cards

3. UNO

This is a card game that intensifies logical thinking, boosts memory, helps concentration, improves math skills, and engages the player visually with colorful cards.

Each player begins with seven cards. In order to win, each player needs to get rid of as many cards as they can. The type of cards consist of regular ones with specific numbers and colors as well as attack type that affect other players. It is up to each player to choose the order of the cards they want to use in order to get rid of all of them to win.

4. Scattergories

This game demands the players to find words that would fall in a category given by the game master. Sets of situations are provided by the card and each player has to roll a regular six sided dice and a letter dice. For example: If the dice falls to a three and an R for the letter, the game master can request the participants to provide three things that start with R in any situation or subject.

Dice pair

5. Dice Games

There are many types of these. They enhance an individual’s problem solving skills, promotes visualization, and improves social communication skills.

Pig Dice - This is played with two dice and either a game board or a pad of paper. The player who gets closest to a score of 100 is the winner. Each player can keep rolling the dice until they decide to stop. But if they roll a one, either all of their points are lost, or they can decide to hold their score and continue later for the next round. If a player rolls a one on both dice, it is equivalent to 25 points. If they roll a two on both dice, their total score is multiplied by two.

Farkle - This game has the player roll six dice. Each has corresponding pairs and points from a given chart. The player with the highest score over 10,000 wins.

6. Scrabble

This game works best for seniors who are good with words and are into literature. It allows them to exercise their memory on their vocabulary and stimulates them to be engaged since it is played with others.

Each player earns a corresponding score by constructing words with letter tiles and placing them together on a grid. Each player is given seven random letters and draws more letters from a bag as they are used to always maintain seven to chose from. The letters played must touch at least one letter that has already been placed on the board game. When no one can connect any more words to the board, the game ends. The person with the highest score wins.

There are many different versions of this game but the rules are relatively the same. The prices vary from very affordable to quite expensive depending on your preferences. All versions are engaging and enjoyable. Click here to compare prices on amazon.

7. Dominoes

This game tackles strategy and induces critical thinking considering it needs arithmetic skills and focus to participate. There are many different ways to play with dominoes.

In its simplest form, the main point of the game is to put as many tiles down on the table. The number on each tile must match the ones that are already set. The first player to put their tile down should be the biggest number which is 12. Each player gets seven tiles. If a player doesn’t have a tile that matches the ones given then they should draw from the boneyard. The person who gets rid of the most tiles wins the game.

Jeopardy logo

8. Jeopardy

This game originally derived from a popular television show. Playing a game that feels like a show creates a more exciting atmosphere for the players.

It initiates a question and answer type of activity where the players practice critical thinking, memory, and knowledge exercises in order to get points. Even if they don’t answer the questions correctly, finding out the correct answers helps them learn new things. It is considered fun and mentally enticing by almost everyone who plays it.

9. Trivia game

This is another form of a question and answer game. This also stretches the mind to be sharp and can be a way to learn new information previously unknown the by the participants. Learning new things keeps the brain active and mentally strong by creating new neuronal connections.

The exciting part is it can either be catered towards current events or what happened at specific times in the past. The trivia can be gathered from events such as valentine's day, earth day, etc. You can also add factual questions on specific subjects ranging from different genres such as environment, politics, showbiz, or even riddles.

Wii elderly

10. Wii Bowling / Tennis / Family Feud

Using technology and video games is one of the best ways to encourage older adults with a weaker physique to participate in sports. These games keep them active, keeps their concentration going, and improves hand and eye coordination. It is also really easy to use even for those who have never played video games before. Above all, these games can give them a good sense of emotional well-being as stated in this article.

Since this particular console is an older one, you can find it online for relatively cheap and often with the sports game already included. Click here for the current price on amazon.

Individual Activities

11. Crossword Puzzle

This activity challenges the brain to improve its capabilities through brainstorming sessions. This one works well with individuals who find an interest in words and phrases.

12. Word Search

This activity enhances the skills of the brain to derive vocabularies from memory. Finding words provides a sense of accomplishment which rewards the brain with a surge of dopamine which is a key biochemical that affects mood and memory.

This website provides new crossword puzzles and word searches daily that you can print and use as many times as you wish. You can even print out ones from previous days so there's plenty to choose from. There are also many sudoku puzzles available if they prefer puzzles involving numbers.

13. Connect the Dots

This has been known to be an activity for young kids but it can also be used by older adults. It helps with hand and eye coordination and keeps the mind sharp. There are ones catered towards adults ranging from easy to hard. Gauge what you think would provide the best challenge for each individual.

Painting elderly

14. Painting and Coloring

This activity not only gets the mind to process and explore many thoughts, it also relaxes, reduces anxiety, and gets the motor skills going. It is perfect for seniors who are very artistic or find it difficult to express themselves. It not only benefits the brain, but it also provides them with a sense of fulfillment.

Thank you Maricris Tamondong for contributing this article.

Guest Articles Written for Caregiverology

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