Aging Options

Mental Stimulation Won’t Cure Dementia, but it Brings Many Benefits

Save as PDF

In spite of what many believe, researchers have shown that “brain games” and other mentally stimulating activities for seniors can’t stave off dementia, especially for those genetically predisposed. However, this recent article in the New York Times suggests that classes in brain fitness and other, similar activities are showing significant improvement in the quality of life for seniors who take part. In other words, whether or not these activities play a direct role in combatting dementia, it’s increasingly clear that they bring a wide range of other mental, physical and psychological benefits.

The article looked at senior residences in various parts of the nation, including one here in Seattle. These residences are offering a growing range of “brain fitness” courses, encouraging residents to try everything from board games to using an iPad to flying a drone around the activity room. One lady in Virginia says these activities have definitely improved her thinking skills, but beyond that, says the New York Times, “she has learned that regular habits like exercising and laughing and socializing, including talking to strangers, are engaging and perhaps even helpful in extending her life.” Her enjoyment of life has improved dramatically.

According to the Times, researchers now know that “the brain thrives on continuous stimulation.” It wants to learn! That’s why one brain expert who designs programs for seniors and others emphasizes novelty and complexity. “All kinds of concentrated activities, like learning a foreign language or how to play a musical instrument, can be fulfilling for older people,” reports the New York Times, adding that these activities combined with exercise and good nutrition result in “a brain that is fully engaged socially, mentally and spiritually,” making it “more resilient.”

Social interaction appears to be one of the essential elements for stronger brain health, experts suggest. Games played alone such as solitaire or Sudoku, while potentially helpful, need to be augmented with programs that create fun, stimulating relationships. Said one expert quoted in the article, “The worst thing for older adults is isolation.” (For a recent AgingOptions Blog post on the dangers of loneliness to seniors, click here.)

According to a study paid for by NIH (the National Institutes of Health), when adults took part in exercises that required thinking skills such as problem solving and learning, their brains showed lasting improvement. (One example: reading a newspaper article and discussing it with a friend.) The study from 2014 which included more than 2,800 participants showed that those taking part in these brain-stimulating activities tended to have less difficulty with common activities such as preparing meals or shopping. One of the researchers, a professor from Johns Hopkins University, called this “a very hopeful message,” adding, “Even a modest investment in cognitive training pays dividends up to a decade later” making everyday activities easier.

If you (or someone you love) live in a senior residence, we suggest you show the New York Times article to the administrator or activity director in the facility where you live. If you live somewhere where these types of mentally-stimulating, socially-engaging activities are regularly offered, contact us at AgingOptions – we’d love to hear about. Above all, if you’re beginning to evaluate long-term senior housing for yourself, your spouse, a parent or friend, we hope this article will cause you to ask some penetrating questions. It sounds like the kinds of activities discussed in the article can make a very significant difference in the quality of life for seniors.

Housing choices are an important part of your retirement planning, and here at AgingOptions our LifePlanning approach takes your many housing options into account. But we also go far beyond the housing issue to deal with your financial plans, legal affairs, medical needs and family communications. A LifePlan is the most comprehensive approach we know of to the often-daunting task of planning for your future as you age. With our professional staff as your guides, you won’t have to face the complexity of retirement planning alone. We stand ready to assist you on this important journey.

To begin, why not plan to attend a free, information-packed LifePlanning Seminar? We offer these popular events at locations throughout the area. Get all the facts, and register online, by clicking on the Upcoming Events tab on our website – or by calling us during business hours. We’ll look forward to meeting you soon at a LifePlanning seminar in your area.

(originally reported at

Need assistance planning for your successful retirement? Give us a call! 1.877.762.4464

Learn how 70% of retirement plan fails and find out how you can avoid this

Find out more about LifePlanning

Your Cart is empty!

It looks like you haven't added any items to your cart yet.

Browse Products
Powered by Caddy
Skip to content