Photo: milkos via 123RF

Keeping your brain sharp and in shape is just as vital as physical health. Taking time for daily brain exercises is essential, especially as we age. The key is to choose challenging (but not too frustrating) activities—assess your current level across various categories before you begin new exercises.

In general, brain games focus on one (or more) of these six areas:

  • Long-term memory.
  • Working memory.
  • Executive functioning.
  • Attention to detail.
  • Multitasking.
  • Processing speed.

And while you’re exercising these key areas, make sure to choose something you enjoy playing—these games can be useful and fun.

Online Memory Card Games

Sometimes the simplest games are the best for maintaining mental agility. Just like the memory games that children play with rows of cards, these online versions focus on different kinds of images that often cause confusion as our brains age. You can play versions with photographs of real people to help with facial recall or black and white pictures to improve pattern recognition. The sites frequently add new sets of cards, so keep this site bookmarked for easy access.

Free Online Variety Sites

Many websites offer free games for seniors in a variety of areas—everything from verbal skills to logic and math is at your fingertips! BrainCurls is completely free and easy to access from a computer or tablet; no app download is necessary. The site features different games every month and often adds new material to popular categories, including “current vocabulary,” so you can keep up with the times. BrainTrainer is another site that offers a wide variety of games with a rotating daily challenge. Start a free account to keep track of your progress in various areas.

Online Visual and Logic Games

Strengthening your visual acuity doesn’t have to involve specific memory recall games. Activities like jigsaw puzzles and Tetris are an excellent way to exercise the connection between visual inputs and brain processing. These sites are free to play and offer various difficulty levels so you can challenge yourself without feeling frustrated. If you’d rather exercise the logical side of your brain (but in a visual rather than mathematical or text-based format), try sites that offer online chesscheckers, or solitaire. These classic games help you practice planning and thinking multiple steps ahead. These sites also let you play against friends or a computer and offer training sessions.

Photo: Alessandro Biascioli via 123RF

Online Word Games

Do you enjoy word games? Exercise many of the same brain muscles (visual input, memory, logic, etc.) with games focused on vocabulary, trivia, and clever puns. Try a daily crossword site to keep your vocabulary and trivia knowledge sharp. If you’d like general trivia without the crossword component, this site offers new questions frequently in various categories!

Apps for Personalized Exercises

If you’d like a program that offers a wide variety of gamesome—all at your level for maximum effectiveness—try one of these apps. You’ll have to pay a fee to access most of the services, like progress trackers, but the small price can be worth the customized content! Lumosity and Elevate are the most popular apps for good reason; they’re both easy to use and offer consistently high-quality activities.

Hard Copy Puzzle Books

Sometimes it’s nice to actually hold a book, right? For some seniors who want to improve their mental agility, holding a physical pencil to work through problems can be an obstacle. Still, others can find increased effectiveness when the kinesthetic component of learning is included. For one of the best variety puzzle books, try this book of 399+ games that target key areas. Books that focus on specific games, like sudoku or crosswords, are also excellent options and available in most stores.

Try incorporating several of these brain games into your daily routine. You’ll notice the difference in mental agility quickly!