There’s no denying that the aging process can be an immense challenge. Not only is it an entirely new, unexpected journey that often catches people by surprise, but throughout the aging cycle, older adults are continuously losing some ability that they’ve had for the majority of their lives. This includes things we often take for granted, such as physical and motor functionality, as well as mental, sensory and emotional capabilities.
Unfortunately, even the most healthy, active and engaged older adults will inevitably experience some form of physical or cognitive decline over the years. That said, with growing awareness regarding healthier aging and the proper strategy in place, there are numerous ways in which we can combat and prolong the repercussions of aging, to facilitate a smoother transition into this new chapter of life.
For now, let’s focus on realistic actions we can take - individually and societally - to prolong and combat cognitive decline at scale. Though there are several activities and initiatives that can improve cognitive functionality to ameliorate the aging process, there’s certainly no perfect solution. Many people are under the impression that brain games and puzzles can immensely curtail cognitive decline, but is that truly the case? In this article, we’ll explain how impactful brain games for seniors can be, and if they’re indeed as beneficial as we think they are.
The source of cognitive decline
Before we get into the specifics of resolutions, let’s first address the root cause of cognitive decline more comprehensively. As we age, what’s happening to our brains? According to the NCBI, “Ageing causes changes to the brain size, vasculature, and cognition.” Essentially, as we grow older, our brain is weakening, and coincidingly, our cognitive abilities begin to diminish - and, unfortunately, conditions like Alzeimer’s and dementia can start to develop.
There are, of course, certain genetically predetermined factors that affect the exact rate of how our brains debilitate over time, as well as the impact of our environment, habits, and lifestyle - the classic nature vs. nurture debate. The NCBI study also mentions that “A healthy life both physically and mentally may be the best defence against the changes of an ageing brain.” Thus, in addition to cognitive exercises, it’s important for older adults to incorporate a healthy diet and regular physical activity, ideally outdoors or with others.
Brain games: The ideal solution?
According to research conducted by the Global Council on Brain Health, “Unfortunately, the evidence today regarding the benefits of what most people consider ‘brain games’ is weak to non-existent. Games can be fun and engaging. But often, the claims made by companies promoting the benefits of these games are exaggerated . . . The good news is that cognitively stimulating activities that are mentally engaging and challenge your ability to think over your life can provide benefits for your brain health.”
They also noted that “Simply engaging in more cognitively stimulating activities is not necessarily better. The quality of the activities (including novelty, variety, level of engagement, cognitive challenge imposed and degree of enjoyment) is important. Moreover, the duration of time in which you spend doing the activity plays an important role in the extent to which those activities will maintain or improve your brain function . . . we have sufficient evidence to conclude that it is beneficial to remain mentally active and to continue learning over the course of your lifespan.”
So while brain games are by no means the perfect solution, participating in the right caliber of mentally engaging activities - ones that keep us constantly challenged and learning - can definitely be beneficial to some degree. Close attention should also be paid to the duration and frequency for optimal results.
Selecting the optimal cognitively stimulating activities
Although there’s no direct correlation between brain games and cognitive health, they can certainly help improve levels of boredom and amusement, particularly for those aging in place on their own. After all, they provide a fun means of entertainment at home, one that’s suitable for virtually every budget. Yet with such a wide selection available, choosing the right activities for you or your loved one(s) is much easier said than done.
The mentally stimulating activities that might initially come to mind include reading, crossword puzzles, Sudoku, jigsaw puzzles, strategy card games, board games (such as chess, Scrabble, dominoes, backgammon, etc.), trivia, and memory games - the list goes on and on. And while these can be great choices for some, they’re not necessarily viable for everyone. Older adults with limited visual capabilities are often unable to decipher tiny words, game pieces, or screens, or they don’t always have someone around to consistently participate alongside them.
ElliQ: Combining entertainment and stimulation
Clearly older adults need a new form of cognitive stimulation and interactive entertainment - one that works for everyone, despite any limitations. Fortunately, with expanding awareness around the hindrances of aging, combined with evolving technology like ElliQ, the sidekick for happier aging, physical and/or sense-related restrictions should no longer be an obstacle going forward.
ElliQ was specifically designed with older adults in mind - all of ElliQ’s activities are read aloud, at a high, adjustable volume, and the text on her screen is large enough for older adults to view comfortably. With hands-free interactive games like trivia and educational fun facts, healthy activities like mindful breathing and reminders to drink water, and educational videos on science, history, and beyond, ElliQ makes staying stimulated, healthy and engaged at home simple and feasible for everyone.
Changing our approach towards healthier cognition
Though cognitive stimulation is incredibly important, the evidence is clear that brain games are by no means a magical cure to the cognitive decline older adults will inevitably face over time - or the only vital aspect to incorporate throughout the aging process. Fortunately, as we as a society grow increasingly aware of the challenges associated with aging, particularly in regards to brain health and cognitive stimulation, the more we can begin to address and resolve them.
By consciously integrating a healthy diet, physical activity, and continuous learning into millions of older adults’ daily routines, we’ll hopefully spark the much-needed transition into a new era of happier, healthier aging across the globe. With more products like ElliQ aimed at keeping older adults entertained, engaged, and thriving throughout the aging process, perhaps a substantial transformation is on the horizon.