Studies show the multiple benefits of cognitive-stimulating activities like memory-related games, both for overall brain health and for those with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Unfortunately, there are some conflicting reports about the efficacy of memory games for dementia, claiming they can slow the disease’s progression. While nothing can stop or consistently slow the progression of these types of conditions, certain activities can help with a person’s current state. (Refer to this Health review of recent research to understand the distinction). Additionally, brain games can be fun and provide beneficial social interaction for those with dementia and their caregivers.

We know that it can be challenging to come up with new activities if you have a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Our Dementia Resource Director, Libby Gilden, MPH and CDP, outlined some of the activities and games we use in our memory care community, Arbor. Try one of the following six types of memory games for dementia with your loved one. 

1. Card and Board Games

Simple card or board games are great for those with dementia. Most older adults are familiar with the general rules and might just need a quick refresher. If you’d like an easier option, try teaching or reminding them how to play “War” (highest card wins and takes the cards). Children’s board games like Shoots and Ladders are also great for those with cognitive decline. Moreover, you could play board or card games with children or grandchildren to bring the family together. Overall, the social and neural connections involved in these games can boost brain activity. 

2. Bingo

Similar to card games, bingo is generally familiar to older adults. This activity can trigger long-term memory for cognitive stimulation and can improve socialization when played in a group. Try bingo cards with fewer numbers or numbers that are in numerical order. Additionally, large print cards or cards with sliding markers can help individuals with declining eyesight or dexterity issues. 

3. Trivia

Trivia is a fun brain game that doesn’t require many materials. For those with dementia, try simple object trivia. For example, lead them to answer “scissors” after telling them about a sharp, two-bladed object with handles used to cut. Alternatively, consider simple questions from their earlier years. Questions like “Who sings the song ‘Hound Dog’?” will help your loved one reminisce and lead to a discussion about their memories with that song. 

4. Crossword Puzzles

Individuals with memory impairment frequently struggle with recalling words. Crossword puzzles are a challenging yet stimulating word game that can help those with early-onset dementia (i.e., can still likely meet the challenge of such a game). Opt for a large-print book of crosswords or find them for free online. Puzzles may include common phrases like “April showers bring May [blank].” Set a goal with your loved one based on their cognitive ability, such as completing one puzzle a day or each week. 

5. Memory

Memory is a classic two-person game that, as its name suggests, can help with memory recall. Players flip over two cards in hopes of revealing a match. The tricky part is remembering the image on the cards after they are flipped back around. Memory games with varying abilities are available to play online. Or, purchase a hands-on game and begin with just a few pairs of cards. Even better, consider customizing a game with pictures of family members and loved ones. The personalized game will boost overall cognition while also helping those with dementia remember familiar faces.  

6. Video Games

Video games are one of the newer memory games for dementia on the list. Previously overlooked for mental improvement, they’ve become increasingly popular with older adults. People with dementia can reap the memory and concentration benefits of playing games. Try easier puzzle-based options like Tetris. Learning and mastering skills in video games can provide your loved one with feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction.

As with all activities on this list, ensure that you help and assist your loved one. Stay present as they play or play with them. It can be challenging for them to learn a new controller or the button sequence.

Boost Cognitive Stimulation through Memory Games and Activities

Playing games is a generally fun activity that can benefit aging adults. Friendly competition and conversation over games is a great way to socialize and spend quality time together. Moreover, playing games can help boost cognitive function in those with dementia. Brain exercises like games and puzzles keep thinking skills sharp and keep the players in a positive overall mood. Encourage your loved one with dementia to play games or challenge them to a friendly competition to stimulate their mind!  

The Advantage of Memory Games for Dementia in Senior Communities 

Amit Lampit, PhD, a research fellow in the School of Psychology, explained in the previously mentioned Health article that brain games in a community setting tend to have better results. This is because individuals are surrounded by others that encourage them to participate and guided by professionals. As such, they receive the best cognitive benefits from memory-related activities. If you have a loved one with dementia, give your nearest Vineyard community a call to chat about our memory care programming. 

At Arbor, our memory care residents experience a mix of physical, psychosocial, and cognitive programs each day. From discussion groups to playing memory games, our residents engage in a variety of cognitively stimulating activities daily.