10 Brain Fitness Exercises for Seniors

Normal aging causes changes in the way the brain functions that is why brain fitness exercises for seniors are so important. Studies show that while verbal fluidity and vocabulary, and crystallized intelligence continue to increase until you hit 65 years, processing speed declines. As you age, your reflexes begin to slow, and you start to experience a decline in cognitive ability (memory, language and reasoning ability). Cognition is the ability to use your brain effectively. Short-term memory loss among the elderly is common. After 65, your risk of developing dementia doubles every 5 years. Even so, some older adults stay sharper than others. Recent studies have established that your brain can continually learn and adapt even in old age through the generation of new neural pathways. Keep reading to understand how.

Baby boomers account for one of the largest aging cohorts in the United States. Over 10,000 baby boomers reach the age of 65 every day according to the US Census Bureau. While many seniors pay more attention to physical fitness by leading an active life (maintaining a healthy diet, continuous learning, social contacts and exercising), few people remember that mental health is equally important. The increasing cases of accidents caused by memory loss are alarming. There is no better time to begin giving your most important muscle the exercise it needs than now.

That is why staying cognitively fit is essential as we age. Researchers believe that engaging in continuous, targeted brain exercises can improve your brain’s cognitive reserve. To stay in shape, your brain needs exercise just like other muscles. The more brain fitness exercises you perform, the better your brain will become at processing information.

Seniors want to be independent and carry out activities of daily living (ADLs) like cooking, driving and traveling on their own. But this requires them to be mentally fit. To stay mentally fit, you need to perform brain fitness exercises for seniors. Engaging in productive engagement tasks has been proven to lead to cognitive gains. In fact, being mentally active can protect you from dementia, Alzheimer’s and other forms of cognitive declines.

The Best Brain Training Exercises For Seniors

The good news is that most of these exercises don’t have to cost anything. You can utilize resources in your home or assisted living community to exercise your brain.

  1. Reading and Writing

Reading is an immersive activity recommended for people of all ages, but especially for the elderly as it exercises their brain and improves connectivity. Be it a novel, a newspaper or magazine; reading will assist in word recall (enhancing lost vocabulary) and offer other calming benefits. Besides enhancing your memory, reading will also stimulate learning processes and help in avoiding boredom. If you can’t read on your own, you can try audiobooks or let a family member or caretaker read aloud for you.

Reading and writing go together. If you love reading, the chances are high that you also enjoy writing. There are many good books and novels written by older people. But it doesn’t have to be a 500-page novel. Writing down your ideas, daily activities and thoughts in a journal will help boost your comprehension and memory. Writing is a brain stimulating activity that can also be in the form of storytelling or poetry.

  1. Classic Brain Games (Puzzles, Chess and Card games)

Word, memory and math games assist in improving reasoning potential and skills. Crosswords have been found to be very effective memory exercises. Besides enhancing memories, puzzles also promote cognitive function. Sudoku is another game you can explore. It is similar to a crossword puzzle, just that instead of words, it uses numbers. Contrary to popular misconception, you don’t need to possess mathematical knowledge to Play Sudoku. Rather, it is a logic puzzle that stimulates the brain. You can easily find these puzzles in dailies, magazines and puzzle books.

Brain games that don’t offer an increase in difficulty as you master every skill level can cause boredom. It’s similar to learning how to ride a bike; once you have mastered bike riding, your brain would no longer be challenged. Chess is another strategy game that has been around for generations. Besides boosting your memory, chess will enhance your cognitive ability.

Card games can include Solitaire, Poker and Hearts. According to the American Academy of Neurology (AAN), when you regularly play card games, you will exercise your brain and slow down memory loss that comes with old age. Maintaining brain vitality will help you carry out daily activities with little or no difficulty.

Websites like Cranium Crunches has an extensive database of games and activities designed to help seniors hone their attention skills, enhance processing speed and make new brain connections.

  1. Proper Nutrition

We have a tendency to separate the body and mind, but just like your heart and muscles, the kind of foods you eat every day affects your brain. You are what you eat. This statement is true when it boils down to brain fitness. Some foods are more brain healthy than others. Brain superfoods are rich in antioxidants, folate and Omega-3 fats. They include salmon, eggs, olive oil, berries and nuts. Besides taking these heart-healthy foods, it is also vital that you maintain an overall healthy diet.

  1. Physical Exercise

Yes, you read that correctly. Working out is generally associated with increased lean muscle. Performing physical exercises can also promote vascular health and provide mental benefits. Here’s how: Exercising increases heart rate that leads to increased blood flow to all parts of the body including the brain. When blood vessels transport oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to the brain, this results in optimal brain health and development among the elderly.

  1. Sensory Stimulation (Neurobics)

Sensory stimulation is another exercise you can try to stimulate brain function. This exercise involves enhancing and developing all the 5 senses (touch, see, hear, smell and taste). Here is how: You can taste some delicious cooking, listen to soothing music, watch a touching movie, smell a pleasant aroma and touch something cozy to wake up your brain. When you use and pay attention to the sensory stimulus, you will awaken sensory awareness and memory. Test your recall often to teach your brain how not to forget things.

  1. Imagine

Unknown to many people, there is power in imagination. The simple act of putting your imagination to use can exercise your brain. Research shows that curiosity ranks among the best brain stimulating exercises. The good thing about imagining is that you can do it anywhere; when you are taking an evening stroll or in bed before you fall asleep. Try to keep your imagination positive for best results. If you visit a friend, you can imagine how you would decorate your living room.

  1. Discovery Challenge

As you grow older, it pays to learn new stuff. Experts recommend learning new things as a genius way to improve brain health. Don’t view hobbies as things you do to pass the time. You are more vulnerable to dementia when you pay less attention to the things around you. Engage your mind by learning a new foreign language, hobby or craft. From knitting to photography to woodworking, look for an immersive activity that you enjoy and practice to get better at it every day. When you learn new skills, you challenge your brain to increase its processing speed. If you don’t know how to play any musical instrument, maybe taking guitar lessons is exactly what you need to engage your cognitive thinking skills.

  1. Social Interaction

As we age, we seem to disassociate ourselves with other people which should not be the case. Instead, you should focus on starting new relationships and developing existing ones. Regular social interaction with your peers and family members is a great way to maintain your memories. Join a book club, take gym sessions and try meeting new people with whom you can share your values and interests. Something as simple like playing a card game with your peers can have a significant impact on your brain health and fitness. Spirituality will also help you gain a sense of belonging. By being engaged with the surrounding world, you can reduce stress and have a new positive perception of life.

  1. Enough Sleep

Your brain needs enough and consistent sleep to function correctly. Researchers show that poor or inconsistent sleep is a significant risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline. You can avoid all these illnesses by simply having enough rest. Set a bedtime and stick with it. Avoid having a TV set or carrying your smartphone to the bedroom. Try listening to soft music or take a hot shower before retiring to bed.

  1. Brain Training Apps

There are hundreds of brain training apps that you can download straight to your smartphone or iPad today. These apps have fun and stimulating games that will help you work on your problem-solving skills, concentration, flexibility, and more importantly memory. The activities will slow down the effects of aging by challenging your brain. You can use these apps anywhere and whenever you feel like it. They are designed to turn the brain training process from boring to fun. Notable mentions include Lumosity, Elevate, Peak and Fit Brains Trainer.


Brain fitness exercises for seniors are essential to sustaining brain function and keeping your aging mind sharp and alert. Brain training involves lifestyle changes that may be overwhelming for some seniors. Don’t rush to changing your lifestyle at once. Start slowly by picking one brain activity. If you can add another exercise, good for you. Pick an activity based on your personal interests, temperament and ability.

It is never too late to pay better attention to the components of brain fitness. Boost your brain power today by participating in any of the activities mentioned above.

Check out the best book recommendations for seniors.

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