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Brain Games, Activities, and More: Resources for Preventing Memory Loss

cartoon brain exercising with puzzles

Adapted from Getty Images

The reasons behind memory loss can vary from person to person. For some, it may be due to natural signs of aging, while for others, it may be correlated with early signs of Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Memory loss is common and can happen at multiple stages of life. Luckily, there are various exercises and brain games to improve working memory. Throughout the rest of this article, you will find information on the different ways to prevent memory loss, information on memory disorders, and additional resources to help spread awareness about memory loss prevention.  

Preventing Memory Loss Using Brain Games and Other Activities

Not only are they fun, but brain games and activities are also great for preventing memory loss. The repetitive movements made while doing certain activities can help trigger memories that were once forgotten. Here is a closer look at the various activities you can do to help prevent memory loss. 

Activities for Memory Loss Prevention

Engaging in a variety of tasks is a great way to have fun while maintaining your health. Here are a few examples of different activities you can do to help with forgetfulness:

  • Cooking and baking

  • Crossword puzzles

  • Daily chores

  • Folding clothes

  • Gardening

  • Making music

  • Organizing drawers, cabinets and rooms

  • Jigsaw puzzles

  • Reading (specifically older books, magazines and newspapers)

  • Reviewing old family photos

  • Untying knots

  • Watching old movies and shows

  • Word searches

  • Writing poetry

Whether you’re alone or with a friend, participating in any of the above activities is a great way to integrate brain games into your daily routine. 

Crafts for Memory Loss Prevention

Craft making as a form of therapy for memory loss can help to re-define basic motor skills, encourage self-expression, and improve hand-eye coordination. Listed below are a few crafts you or a loved one can do to work on improving memory. 

  • Collaging

  • Coloring

  • Crocheting

  • Drawing

  • Knitting

  • Painting or paint by numbers

  • Scrapbooking

  • Sculpting using something soft and malleable, like clay or play dough

Choosing crafts that cater to your abilities is a must when crafting to help prevent memory loss. Individuals with little to no motor skills will want to consider doing easier crafts like coloring or painting. Choose crafts that require more work and materials if you can navigate these requirements. 

Games for Memory-Loss Prevention

Playing board games, card games, and free online word games is an additional way to improve cognitive function. Psychologists at the University of Edinburgh studying the effects of board games on cognition later in life found that “people who increased game playing in later years were found to have experienced less decline in thinking skills in their 70s — particularly in memory function and thinking speed.” Similar to repeating daily tasks, playing intellectual games often can help trigger memories that were once lost.

game playing chart with cartoon braingame playing chart with cartoon brain

Here is a non-exhaustive list of board games, word games, and more that are excellent for memory loss prevention: 

  • Balderdash: This board game encourages players to dive into their memory to answer true questions about people, words, movies, and initials. Players will select a category, ask the question out loud, and write down the answer they believe to be true. Once every player has written their answer, they will take turns reading them and voting on the one they think answers the questions the most accurately.  

  • Scrabble: Scrabble is a board game in which players are given a certain number of lettered tiles and must create words on a game board. Individual letters are assigned their own point value, and players can get higher scores for using certain tiles or combinations. 

  • Bananagrams: Similar to Scrabble, Bananagrams is a family-friendly word game in which players create words. However, unlike Scrabble, Bananagrams does not come with a gameboard. Instead, players can compete on-the-go. 

  • Bingo: This popular board game requires players to match a combination of numbers and letters on their playing board once they’re called out by the host. If the host yells out “B12,” then everyone with the number 12 under column “B” on their playing card will be able to mark it off. The first player to mark off five numbers in a row and yell “bingo” is the winner of the game. 

  • Boggle: Here is another word game that consists of various letters that players must link together to form as many words as possible in a given amount of time. Each player has the same set of letters, giving them the same opportunity to win. Rather than it being a game of luck, to win Boggle you must find words that weren’t discovered by the other players. 

  • Checkers: Checkers is a two-person game that requires a lot of thought and strategy. The goal of checkers is to capture all of your opponent's pieces by making a series of movements, bringing your piece closer to the opposite end, and jumping over or “capturing” the other player’s pieces. While this game does require a lot of thought, it is still simple enough to where those with memory loss would still feel confident playing. 

  • Go Fish: This card game needs a minimum of two players and no more than 10. You will need a standard deck of cards. From there, the dealer will hand out five cards, facing down, to each player. They will each take turns asking a single person if they have a certain number. If they do, the player asking the question gets to take the card, make a match, and add it to their match pile. If not, the player being asked will say “go fish” and the other player must draw a card. The player with the most matches wins. 

  • Memory: Just as it sounds, Memory is a card game that relies heavily on a player’s memory. Multiple cards are placed face down. Each card has a matching pair. Players must flip over a single card and guess where its match is. If you get it wrong, the game moves on to the next player. If you get it right, you get to pick up the match and keep it for yourself. The player with the most matches wins. 

  • Sudoku: Sudoku is a number puzzle that consists of nine different squares, subdivided into nine additional squares. Players must include numbers one through nine in each square while ensuring every number only appears once in each horizontal line, vertical line, and square. 

cartoon brain with unfinished sudokucartoon brain with unfinished sudoku
  • Trivial Pursuit: This board game tests a player’s ability to answer different trivia questions correctly. There are many different types, categories, and platforms for Trivial Pursuit. This allows players to choose a Trivial Pursuit that they know most about. 

  • Upwords: When playing Upwords, participants start by placing lettered tiles on a game board in a crossword-like fashion. While this may sound similar to Scrabble and other word games, it differs uniquely. Rather than only adding letters next to existing words, players can stack their letters and change old words into new ones. For example, if the player has a letter “C” and there is the word “hat” on the board, they can stack the “C” onto the “H” to change it from “hat” to “cat.” 

  • Word Whomp: This online game challenges players to make as many words as they can in a short period using only six letters. 

Word games, like many of those listed above, can be particularly challenging to try and solve or cross-check independently. You can use online word unscramblers and jumble solvers to help with finding or identifying words for any number of games or scrambles. 

Mobile Apps for Memory-Loss Prevention

Even those with busy schedules can practice memory retention techniques with the help of mobile apps. Even if you’re not always on the go, having instant access to tools and resources that can aid with memory loss prevention is very beneficial.  

Apps like Google Earth and Google Maps allow you to explore areas that were once familiar. Skype and FaceTime can help you reconnect with lost friends and loved ones. Let’s take a look at a few other apps you can download to your mobile device: 

  • Coach Memory! Brain Trainer: A free game that teaches memory, attention, reaction speed, multitasking, task switching, and problem solving skills; available for Android only. 

  • CogniFit Brain Fitness: A personalized program to measure, train, and monitor cognitive skills such as concentration and reasoning; available on Google Play and the Apple App Store.

  • Eidetic: Uses spaced repetition — lengthening intervals of time between reviews of previously learned material — to aid in memorization; available for iOS only.

  • Lumosity: Science-backed brain-training games to improve your memory, processing speed, problem solving, and more; available on Android and iOS.

  • Words With Friends: A word game similar to Scrabble that helps players improve their vocabulary and problem-solving skills; available on Google Play and the Apple App Store.

Search in your phone’s app store to find these and more brain games to help with memory loss prevention. 

Physical Activities for Memory Loss Prevention

Frequent physical activity has many benefits. Medical professionals across the board would agree with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which stresses the importance of physical activity. According to the CDC, “Regular physical activity can help keep your thinking, learning, and judgment skills sharp as you age.”

Engaging in physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight, improve your mood, and even help prevent memory loss. Listed below are a few simple, yet effective ways you can get your body moving: 

  • Dancing

  • Yoga

  • Meditation

  • Walking

  • Water aerobics

Remember, some activities may require more movement and thought than others. Be sure to choose activities that you’re sure you or a loved one can participate in without overwhelming your mind or body.  

Social Activities for Memory-Loss Prevention

Social activity is important, especially for those who suffer from memory loss. Not only can it help maintain emotional health, but it can also help improve overall cognitive function. Volunteering your time, joining a book club or any other type of club, as well as attending local events are a few ways to socialize with your health in mind. 

Understanding Memory Disorders

Memory loss and cognitive disorders can be difficult to comprehend. Despite this, it is important to at least understand the causes of memory loss, types of memory disorders, the risks associated with it, and how to combat memory loss. Keep reading to learn more about the basics of understanding memory disorders.  

Types of Memory Disorders

Many types of memory disorders range in severity — some more debilitating than others. The type of disorder depends on what caused it. For example, aging may lead to Alzheimer's disease or dementia. 

There are many types of memory disorders. A few of the most common types are:

  • Alzheimer’s disease: According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s is “a type of dementia that affects memory, thinking, and behavior.” Common symptoms of Alzheimer’s include challenges in problem-solving, frequent forgetfulness, and mood swings.

  • Dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB): According to the Mayo Clinic, Lewy body dementia “is the second most common type of progressive dementia after Alzheimer's disease.” Symptoms of DLB include depression, sleep disorders, and urinary incontinence.

  • Frontotemporal dementia (FTD): FTD is not an isolated disorder; rather, it “refers to a group of disorders caused by progressive nerve cell loss in the brain’s frontal lobes or its temporal lobes,” according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Symptoms of FTD include behavioral changes, speech and language problems, and movement disorders. 

  • Huntington’s disease: Huntington’s disease is “a progressive brain disorder caused by a defective gene… [it] causes changes in the central area of the brain, which affect movement, mood, and thinking skills,” according to the Alzheimer's Association. Other symptoms of Huntington’s disease include memory lapses, difficulty concentrating, and depression. 

  • Mixed dementia: The Alzheimer’s Association points out that mixed dementia is “a condition in which brain changes of more than one cause of dementia occur simultaneously.” Symptoms of mixed dementia are similar to Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer’s and the various forms of dementia are the most common causes of age-related memory loss.

Causes of Memory Loss 

While scientists and medical professionals continue to research memory disorders, there is still a lot that has yet to be understood. One thing they do know for certain is that memory loss is a result of damage to the hippocampus. Medical News Today defines the hippocampus as the part of the brain that “helps humans process and retrieve two kinds of memory, declarative memories, and spatial relationships.” 

Memory loss can also be a result of:

  • Aging

  • Anxiety

  • Excessive alcohol and/or drug use

  • Illness

  • Lack of sleep

  • Some prescription drugs (such as medications that treat anxiety, cholesterol, and seizures)

  • Stress

  • Traumatic events (like car accidents or sports injuries)

Speak with a medical professional if you suspect you or a loved one is suffering from memory loss. 

Signs and Symptoms of Memory Loss

Signs of memory loss will vary for each individual. However, common signs of memory loss often include:

  • Change in personality

  • Disorientation

  • Forgetting to complete day-to-day tasks

  • Impaired judgment

  • Inability to remember names and faces

  • Misplacing things

  • Problems speaking or remembering words

If left untreated, memory loss can pose a greater risk not only to those with memory loss but also to those caring for them. Failure to take proper precautions in preventing and treating memory disorders can lead to the inability to carry out day-to-day functions — creating a greater risk for other comorbidities. 

Memory loss can also lead to an abundance of anger and frustration. Those caring for individuals with memory loss should be patient and understanding of the situation. 

Treating Memory Loss

Before considering treatment you must first get a proper diagnosis from a medical professional. This may include a series of memory tests and radiology scans such as MRIs and CT scans. 

From there, they will help you determine the best treatment route. Typically, memory loss can’t be treated. However, this doesn’t mean it can’t be reversed. Participating in the above activities alongside a variety of lifestyle changes can also help you treat memory loss.

Memory Care Organizations and Associations

Organizations and associations devoted to memory care have been established worldwide. Listed below are a few popular organizations and associations those affected by memory loss can turn to for guidance:

  • Alzheimers.gov: This is a website provided by the federal government to help bring awareness to and provide resources on Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

  • Alzheimer’s Association (ALZ): Individuals affected by Alzheimer’s and other memory-loss disorders can turn to the Alzheimer’s Association for resources, support groups, and more.

  • Alzheimer’s Family Center: The Alzheimer’s Family Center was created to support, give guidance, and assist with treatment for dementia patients and their families. 

  • Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA): AFA’s mission is to “provide support, services, and education to individuals, families, and caregivers affected by Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias nationwide.” 

  • American Brain Foundation: The American Brain Foundation helps bring researchers and donors together to find a cure for brain diseases and disorders.  

  • Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation (ARPF): ARPF funds brain disorder research studies, provides professional training, advocates for Alzheimer’s awareness, and offers memory screenings for those affected by memory loss.  

You can research local memory-care facilities in your area online or by asking a memory-care specialist. 

Stop Problematic Memory Loss Before It Starts

Forgetfulness can bring on many emotions. It can be scary knowing there’s a possibility that your memories will soon fade away. There are, however, preventative measures you can take, such as playing brain games and doing other activities, to help reduce your risks of memory disorders.

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