March 27, 2024

Nurturing Minds: The Best Games and Activities to Support Cognitive Function for Seniors

March isn't just a month to embrace the newness of the spring season; it is the perfect time to incorporate new, healthy habits to exercise your mind. Keeping your mind sharp is important at any age, but it is particularly important for seniors. As we age, factors such as neurological changes, health conditions and social isolation can all have an impact on our cognitive health. Engaging in the right games and activities can make a significant difference in the rate at which seniors experience cognitive decline.

At Cedarfield, our holistic approach to senior health is exemplified through our Pathways to Wellness program. We offer a wide range of daily opportunities for residents in all levels of service, ranging from individuals in Independent Living and Assisted Living to those in our Morning Glory Memory Support program. Join us as we explore some of the best activities to support cognitive function in older adults, helping everyone stay healthy and active in mind, body and spirit.

Puzzles, Sudoku and Trivia: Exercising the Mind

We know about the importance of keeping our bodies active, but what about our minds? At Cedarfield, residents find joy in the challenge of intellectual pursuits such as puzzles, sudoku and trivia games.

Not only are these activities cherished pastimes, but they can help seniors maintain, and in some cases enhance, memory and recall abilities, problem-solving skills and overall cognitive performance. Beyond the neuroscientific benefits, team-focused games and activities can provide meaningful opportunities for social engagement. This becomes especially important for older adults who may be more prone to feelings of isolation.

Cedarfield hosts regular events, including trivia game nights, for our residents!

Physical Exercise: A Holistic Approach to Cognitive Wellness

A healthy mind starts with a healthy body. By engaging in physical exercise, seniors can support healthy cognitive function and an overall improved mood and sense of self. Seniors can consider a variety of different types of exercises to match their levels of activity, physical abilities and personal preferences.

Low-impact aerobic exercises, such as gentle walking, swimming and water aerobics, are essential in enhancing cardiovascular health, which helps improve the flow of blood to the brain and stimulate the growth of neurons. Senior-friendly strength training exercises, including resistance band workouts, not only help maintain muscle mass but also release hormones that positively influence brain health and synaptic plasticity. The mind-body connection plays an essential role in cognitive well-being. Exercises such as yoga and tai chi offer a gentle and effective way for seniors to improve their flexibility and practice concentration, balance and mindfulness.

The environment at Cedarfield is designed to support healthy living. Located on 95 acres next to Deep Run Park, the campus features miles of nature trails and outdoor spaces, offering endless opportunities for seniors to get active and enjoy the outdoors. Our life plan community also features our Pathways to Wellness Center. With a spacious gym, an aerobic studio and an aquatic center, this space enables seniors to engage in both individual fitness endeavors and organized group fitness activities.

Word Games: Crafting Connections Through Language

Regular participation in word games has been shown to be an enjoyable and effective way for seniors to maintain a high level of cognitive function as they age. Whether it's a round of Scrabble, a friendly game of Boggle or completing a crossword puzzle, word-focused games effectively stimulate brain functions such as memory, language skills and problem-solving abilities. Because these activities require the recall of vocabulary, the formation of words and the deciphering of clues, they help engage neuro-linguistic pathways and promote mental flexibility.

The social aspect of playing word games with others is also important for seniors' emotional well-being. This type of interaction, and perhaps a little friendly competition, can help seniors.

Gardening: Nurturing the Mind and the Earth

As a nature-focused campus, Cedarfield understands the many ways connecting with the outdoors can benefit seniors' mental and emotional well-being. Its outdoor spaces include resident gardens where individuals can find peace and solace. Digging into the soil, planting flowers and tending vegetables can provide numerous therapeutic benefits.

The art of gardening is a mindful practice that not only stimulates the mind but also fosters a deep connection with the world around us. From planning to planting to pruning plants, gardening provides task-based routines and consistency through which seniors can attain a sense of purpose and accomplishment. Multisensory stimulation is an important element in dementia support, as it can evoke positive memories and help seniors stay connected to their pasts. The feel of the soil, the scent of flowers and the many colors of a blooming garden work to engage the senses on different levels for an enriching experience that stimulates cognitive function.

Arts and Crafts: A Cultural Revolution

Engaging in arts and culture offers a powerful avenue for maintaining cognitive function. The creative process involved in activities such as painting, drawing and crafting promotes focus and concentration, attention to detail and the realization of abstract thought. Our creative arts studio provides the perfect place for residents to explore their artistic sides through endeavors such as oil painting, woodworking, pottery and photography.

Creative thinking and artistic exploration encourage the brain to form new connections and pathways, which helps foster neuroplasticity and cognitive resilience. Art also provides an expressive outlet, enabling seniors to communicate their emotions and experiences. This is not only beneficial in promoting mental well-being, but it can also help seniors engage with their memories and treasured pastimes.

In January 2024, Cedarfield began working with Opening Minds Through Art (OMA). Developed at Scripps Gerontology Center, this award-winning, evidence-based program aims to foster connections through art-making. Its intergenerational model pairs seniors who have dementia with students, families and caregivers and enables them to assume roles as artists and teachers. We are excited to see how this program evolves within our life plan community. Stay tuned for updates.

At Cedarfield, our pursuit of a vibrant environment is directly reflected in our efforts to help residents live their best lives. By providing opportunities for intellectual curiosity, physical activity and artistic expression, we have created a culture through which seniors can find joy in lifelong learning and endeavors that support cognitive well-being at every stage of life.

Contact us at 804 474 8788 to learn more about the many ways we are helping seniors stay active in mind, body and spirit.