5 games and apps that can help seniors stay sharp and avoid dementia

There are plenty of benefits that come with getting older. You gain experience and wisdom. You have a unique insight into what's happening in the world around you.

And you also get the chance to embrace a life of leisure and to enjoy the fruits of your long years in the workforce.

But getting older isn't all good news. It can also come with deteriorating health that makes it difficult to maintain a high quality of life in retirement. And of the health problems many seniors face, none is more frightening or potentially debilitating as dementia.

In the UK, dementia is particularly prevalent. A recent statistical analysis revealed that it's something that one in fourteen seniors faces in their lifetime. And when it strikes, sufferers require near-constant care and attention from family and other caregivers.

Worse still, scientists still aren't sure what causes most types of dementia, nor do they agree on many approaches to prevent it. But there are a few types of preventative measures most doctors do agree on for seniors trying to stave off dementia. And one of them is the use of brain-stimulating games.

It's believed that playing games that require focus and the completion of memory-related tasks helps to stave off the cognitive decline that comes with dementia. That means something as simple as completing online jigsaw puzzles once a week could be enough to prevent dementia. But that's not the only kind of game that works for this purpose. Here are five more excellent games and apps seniors can use to help avoid the onset of dementia.

Witty Words

Since studies have proven that word games and crosswords are uniquely well suited to preventing dementia, there are now versions of those games built with seniors in mind. One of them is Witty Words. It's an app that presents level-based crossword puzzles and word connect games, all featuring oversized buttons and controls designed for use by seniors.

And since it's designed to be a part of a long-term brain training regimen, Witty Words features games that use a points system to gauge the performance of its players. That means it can dynamically increase or decrease the difficulty of its games to suit each individual – which keeps seniors engaged with it and benefiting from its use.

Peak

Developed by neuroscientists at prestigious institutions like NYU and Cambridge University, Peak is more than just a simple set of games. It's a complete brain-training ecosystem that includes everything seniors need to stay sharp – and even improve their cognitive abilities. All they have to do is spend ten minutes per day playing an assortment of the app's 45 available games, and they'll start to see the benefits.

Peak even includes a built-in personal trainer that helps track player progress and plot the steps they'll need to improve their mental acuity. That makes it one of the more structured approaches to brain training seniors can use to avoid dementia. It's nothing less than a complete science-backed approach to keeping seniors' brains active and working at peak performance.

Lumosity

Like Peak, Lumosity takes a scientific approach to brain training, by giving players access to a variety of games developed to improve specific mental acuity metrics. They begin by testing game mechanics in a laboratory setting to see how well they challenge specific types of cognitive abilities. Then they craft games around those mechanics, adding in fun themes and enjoyable graphical elements. The resulting games keep players engaged while they improve their performance at the given tasks.

And Lumosity doesn't just assume their games work to improve players' mental function, they've gone out and tested them to prove it. In a randomized trial involving 4,715 participants, the games produced marked improvement in the participants' working memory, arithmetic reasoning, and processing speed. The Lumosity approach even created twice as many gains in those areas compared to a control group that spent their time only playing standard crossword puzzles.

Matrix Brain Challenge

One of the most common forms of dementia in seniors is Alzheimer's disease, which is characterized by confusion and memory loss, among other symptoms. And that means games that help maintain and improve players' memory functions are useful as a way of preventing dementia. They also may help to identify the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease by providing a measure of a senior's memory performance as it changes over time.

And that's where an app called Matrix Brain Challenge comes in handy. It's a memory training game that contains twenty difficulty levels and allows players to check their performance relative to thousands of their peers who also play the game. It's fun, engaging, and useful as a tool to combat the debilitating effects of Alzheimer's disease.

MindMate

Although dementia is a common challenge for many seniors, it's by no means the only one. And MindMate is an app that reflects that reality. It's a multipurpose app that helps seniors to create a schedule that will keep both their minds and bodies fit with a daily activity plan that includes brain training, physical activity, and tips on healthy eating.

MindMate takes a whole-body approach to senior health that starts with a library of fun, challenging, brain-stimulating games that focus on improving four separate areas of cognitive function: memory, attention, problem-solving, and speed. And in recognition that the brain works best when the body gets the right nutrition, the app suggests healthy recipes and provides nutrition advice tailor-made for seniors. And to top it off, it also comes with a curated library of senior-friendly workout videos that make for a personalized and safe workout regimen.

Golden Years, Sharper Minds

Although there's still no silver bullet that can guarantee a senior remains dementia-free, the games and apps listed above can only help with achieving that goal. They're all fun and addictive ways to work on staying mentally sharp as you age. Some of them have scientific studies proving their worth, and others go well beyond just caring for one's brain.

But the one thing they all have in common is that they can shift the odds in seniors' favour that they'll get to spend their golden years with a mind that stays as sharp as it was when they were young. And that's a good goal that anyone should be able to get behind.

Keep up with the top stories from Reader’s Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter.