Brain games to help seniors stay sharp
Dear Savvy Senior,
Can you recommend some good brain-fitness computer games that are designed to help seniors keep their minds sharp? I love to play solitaire on my computer but I’m interested in expanding to some other games that can benefit my mind and memory.
— Forgetful Frank
There are actually a handful of great brain-training websites and computer software products on the market today that are backed by research and proven to help boomers and seniors improve their memory, slow age-related mental decline and even build a stronger brain. But there’s no evidence that these games will prevent Alzheimer’s disease. Here are the best options to consider.
If you’re interested in exercising your brain but don’t want to spend a lot of money, brain-training websites are a good place to start. While there are many sites that offer games that claim to sharpen the mind, the most valid and highly rated one is Lumosity.com who currently boasts around 15 million users.
Developed by neuroscience researchers from Stanford University and UC San Francisco, Lumosity offers more than 35 games and exercises aimed at increasing alertness, sharpening memory skills, improving concentration and faster thinking. The games are fun and engaging, and in each game, as your skill improves, the tasks become progressively more difficult to keep you challenged. The costs: $14.95 a month or about $80 for a one-year subscription. Lumosity even offers mobile apps for smart phone users so you can train wherever you are.
Another good site to check out (but not the quality of Lumosity) is Cognifit.com. This site starts with a brain fitness assessment that lets you know where your stronger areas are, and where you could use some extra training. Cognifit offers around 20 games that are free to play, or you can pay $4.95 for each of their two advanced games for memory and concentration training.
In addition to the websites, there are also a number of computer software brain-training products that you can purchase and use on your home computer.
Some of the best are made by Posit Science (positscience.com, 866-599-6463), which sells three types of brain-training software including “Brain Fitness,” which speeds up and sharpens the auditory system of the brain for faster thinking, sharper focus, and better memory; “InSight” which targets visual processing to improve how your brain takes in, reacts to, and remembers what you see; and “DriveSharp” which strengthens the cognitive skills essential for safe driving. All software is available in PC and Mac versions. The only downside is the price. You can buy the Brain Fitness and InSight software together for $690, or individually for $395 each. The DriveSharp software costs $89.
Another excellent option is Dakim BrainFitness Software (dakim.com, 800-856-5502) that costs $249 and is designed specifically for adults over 60, as well as for seniors with memory loss. And for non-computer users, Diakim offers a touch-screen console for $2,349 that’s pre-loaded with BrainFitness software. Just plug it in and you’re ready to go.
No computer needed If you don’t want to rely on a computer for playing brain-boosting games, consider electronic games like Brain Age, Brain Age 2 (see brainage.com) and Big Brain Academy (bigbrainacademy.com). Made by Nintendo, these games cost around $20 each, but to play them you’ll need to purchase a hand-held Nintendo DS Lite game unit which runs around $100. You can buy these products online at Amazon.com or at retail chains like Walmart, Target and BestBuy.
There are also dozens of mind-challenging books and puzzles you can purchase that can help too, such as “Keep Your Brain Alive: 83 Neurobic Exercises” by Lawrence Katz and Manning Rubin, and “The Big Book of Mind Bending Puzzels” by Terry Stickels.