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Elizabeth Bemis

By: Elizabeth Bemis on March 5th, 2019

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6 Best Cognitive Games and Activities for Seniors

Aging & Caregiving

Has a senior loved one struggled to recall the name of an old friend or remember the street that their first house was located on? Little facts like these can be a challenge for seniors to remember as they get older. If someone you love faces memory challenges, don’t worry. There are steps they can take to keep their minds active and improve memory functions.

Explore the best activities and cognitive games for seniors that will help their minds stay sharp.

What Are Cognitive Skills and Why Are They Important?

Cognitive skills refer to the way your brain works – how you process and recall information. Here are a few cognitive skills that impact your daily life:

  • Thinking

  • Speaking

  • Learning

  • Reading and writing

  • Using critical thinking skills

  • Remembering events, experiences, and more

As senior loved ones age, some of these cognitive skills aren’t as sharp as they once were. Fortunately, your brain is like any other muscle, and with regular exercise, you can keep it limber and healthy. To keep your brain active and healthy, let’s look at some activities that you can work into your daily or weekly routine. Engaging in these cognitive games for seniors is easy when they live in an assisted living community Regular mental exercises, like ones listed below, can have a positive impact on your cognitive skills.


Arts and Crafts

Creative thinking is always a good way to keep your mind active. Using your creative skills on arts and crafts projects not only helps seniors keep their minds busy, it keeps their hands active, as well. These projects don’t have to be elaborate or too expensive either. In fact, many seniors may already have arts and crafts hobbies that they engage in each day, like knitting, needlepoint, woodworking, painting, or anything else that gets your creative juices flowing. These are common activities for seniors in assisted living communities.


Having an active mind isn’t the only benefit that comes with arts and crafts. Seniors can make wonderful handmade items to keep for themselves or give to family members. For example, they could make a quilt for a loved one. This would be a project that would keep seniors busy for weeks or maybe months, and the final product would be an heirloom loved and cherished by their family. And, not all projects have to be large-scale efforts. Seniors can do smaller projects like painting picture frames or making photo collages. The time and love put into any special handmade gift is sure to be appreciated.


Trivia Games

Trivia games are fun and popular activities for people of all ages, but they can be especially helpful for seniors who want to exercise their recall skills and engage with family or friends in an assisted living community. These games encourage seniors to think back to past events or facts they have learned throughout their lives.


One of the best parts of playing a trivia game is that they come in a number of categories, and players can choose based on their interests. Seniors can play a general trivia game, or one that covers specific categories like TV shows, movies, religion, pop culture, or music. They can even find games focused on specific decades, like Trivial Pursuit – The Vintage Years (1920s-1950s).


Trivia games also help you learn and remember new facts. Who knew Abraham Lincoln was the first president born outside the original 13 states? Playing with family members of all ages will be a fun activity, too. Plus, since seniors have more experience and knowledge, there’s a good chance they will win!



There are few activities as relaxing as quietly doing a puzzle on a rainy day. Puzzles are another great way for seniors to stretch mental muscles and stimulate brain function. Cognitive games for seniors like puzzles are problem solving activities, requiring seniors to look for patterns and pay attention to details.


In addition to traditional jigsaw puzzles, seniors can also do crossword puzzles, word search puzzles, or memory games to keep their brains active. Also, if you’re worried about your loved one’s physical limitations, like poor eyesight, you can find puzzles online specifically for seniors, like large-print crossword puzzles or jigsaw puzzles with large pieces. This makes it easier and accessible for everyone.



Instead of looking for image or word patterns, seniors can look for numeric patterns with Sudoku puzzles. Sudoku puzzles will keep your problem-solving skills sharp, and it comes in multiple levels of difficulty. The feeling of accomplishment will motivate seniors to keep going and do more puzzles. Plus, buying a book of Sudoku puzzles is one of the more inexpensive cognitive games for seniors to try.


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Board Games

Everyone loves board games! Not only are board games fun, they also help seniors’ minds stay active. Strategic games like Chess and Checkers are great for working out those mental muscles. They require players to consider the pros and cons that come with each move, anticipate the moves of their opponents, and develop a strategy for the game. Traditional board games like Clue or Sorry! can be fun, helpful options for seniors, too.


Cognitive games for seniors or activities that can help them tap into their creativity bring both the value of added mental exercise and entertainment. These games can be a great way for seniors to avoid boredom and enjoy their day-to-day life.



Finally, while it might seem pretty basic, having an engaging conversation and socializing with others is a really helpful way for seniors to stay mentally active. Remember names and keeping up with topics discussed helps seniors avoid loneliness and boredom, while keeping their minds engaged, as well. Although many seniors have a tendency to avoid over-socialization as they age or their memory starts to fade, these personal interactions can benefit them tremendously. When seniors live in an assisted living community, it’s easy to interact with staff and other community members as much as they want each day.

If your senior loved one lives in an assisted living community, there are probably numerous opportunities throughout the day to participate in activities like these. While some can be done during their alone time (like knitting or Sudoku puzzles) many of these activities (like board games) are a lot more fun with you’re with other people! Assisted living communities provide the perfect opportunity to participate in these types of cognitive games for seniors.


Want to experience the benefits of living in an assisted living community yourself? Get your free guide on touring senior living communities now.

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About Elizabeth Bemis

In 1998, I drove past an assisted living community construction site, learned that it was part of United Methodist Homes and realized the next stop on my professional journey was to work for a mission driven organization. Soon after, I joined the team as Executive Director of our Middlewoods of Farmington community and later served as Regional Manager for the Middlewoods properties before accepting my current role as Vice President of Marketing, Promotions, and Assisted Living Operations. I enjoy spending time with my family, cooking, reading, walking, and love working alongside our staff, residents, and families to build strong communities that reflect the mission, vision, and values of United Methodist Homes.

Our Blog is a 2016 Platinum Generations Award Winner! The Generations Award is an annual international competition for excellence in senior marketing recognizing professionals who have communicated to the 50+ Mature Markets.