A very vital part of aging well for a longer life span is practicing activities that keep our brains going. As the famous saying goes, “use it or lose it.” Similarly to the commonly known muscles throughout our bodies, our brain should also be treated with care and exercised often in order to keep it strong and sharp. Here are some fun ways to do just that.
For this exercise, a photo is given or shown to the participant. The goal is for them to try to remember as much details from the picture as possible. They are then subjected to questions about what they saw without looking back at the photo.
Here is an example. The first picture is the photo for them to observe. The second picture is the questions on the back that are related to the photo. They are to answer either TRUE or FALSE for each question. As you can see, the answers are upside down at the bottom of the page.
Here are the questions and answers shown on the second picture:
Here is another example:
MEMORY EXERCISE: Answer the following without looking back at the photo. TRUE OR FALSE
Here are the answers: 1. True / 2. False / 3. False / 4. False / 5. True / 6. False
I tested this activity on a group of seniors at an assisted living facility (ALF) and they had a really fun time. They liked the photos and some of them even reminisced about their past just by observing the setting, weather and people in the photos.
You can quickly create true and false questions for many different photos or pictures you have lying around. For best results, try choosing a positive photo that brightens their day and creates a good topic for further interactive discussions.
Another activity that you can arrange for seniors to participate in involves images of shapes and silhouettes. Viewing them works the occipital and temporal lobes of the brain which are responsible for vision, recognition, and short term memories. They challenge their knowledge on certain topics and test their long term memory.
If the ones shown appear to be too easy, the level of difficulty can be increased. For instance, if they observe the silhouette shown below to be a dog, you can ask them to be more specific such as identifying that the type of dog is a pug.
You can find many more to use on websites such as this one: https://www.freepik.com/vectors/silhouettes
This activity is simple yet can be a lot of fun. It is similar to the classic images found in the "I Spy" and "Where's Waldo" books except you are challenged to remember the list of items to find before looking at the picture.
Once the senior reads and attempts to memorize the list, they then observe the image and encircle the things they remember reading. Doing this enhances the part of the brain responsible for short term memory which helps in active focusing.
You can do this with many pictures and images just lying around in books, magazines, etc. Here is an example:
List of items to find:
This is an activity that most of us have done at some point in our lives. It is a very popular visual exercise found in magazines, picture books, comics, etc. The participant simply looks at two very similar looking pictures and tries to spot the differences between the two. This enhances the visual center of the brain responsible for memory retrieval.
Here is an example:
Here are some websites with more examples:
This is another popular brain workout that relies on short term memory. The objective of the game is to fill in the squares with the numbers 1 to 9 without repeating any numbers within the row, column, and square.
For more guidance and tips on how to play, here is a site for beginners: https://sudoku.com/how-to-play/sudoku-rules-for-complete-beginners/
Once you and your seniors understand the concept, you can download and print out hundreds of puzzles with varying difficulties to suit their needs on this website: https://www.puzzles.ca/sudoku/
This game requires either photos that you can print copies of or a matching set of cards such as those found in the classic game "Old Maid." The difficulty depends on the pictures that are used. The more complicated the images and colors of the pictures and the more cards used, the harder the game becomes.
To begin, lay all of the cards out face down on a table so they all look the same. The player then points out which two cards they want to be flipped over and revealed. They can only be flipped over for a few seconds before being flipped back to face side down. This is repeated over and over again with just two cards at a time. Once the two cards are a match, they are given to the senior who initiated the flipping. The person with the most cards after they have all been matched up wins.
The purpose of this game is to exercise short term visual memory.
Here is a website where you can download and print out simple pictures to use:
This first game is a fun brain workout that multiple seniors can be involved in. It is similar to the game "Simon" only it is in word form.
The game starts with an initiator making a three word sentence. The sentence is then recited by each other person playing. Then the initiator adds another word to the sentence and the process repeats adding more and more words after each person recites the longer sentence. Once a player forgets a word, they are out of the game. The last person left is the winner.
This second exercise is a similar concept. Basically everyone adds to the sentence until someone forgets a part of it. There is a new part added each turn instead of each round.
Here is an example scenario:
The first player is provided a situation for a subject such as "Going to the beach." The first player could then say: “If I would go to the beach I would bring some slippers." The next player would then say: “If I would go to the beach I would bring some slippers and an umbrella."
The more players involved, the more words everyone has to remember. Players who can’t remember what was said before them will be out of the game. The last one left is the winner.
Here’s a website with even more memory games made for seniors that you and others can try out: