Boost Your Brain Power With 31 Fun Brain Games For Seniors and Adults (Free to Paid)

In today’s post, I’m going to share with you the Best Free And Paid Brain Boosting Games to help you stay sharp (lockdown or not).

Whether you’re into brain training or good ol’ fashioned memory games, this ultimate list of fun brain games is for you!

You can start with free brain training games right of the bat or you can get more technical with free to paid brain training apps ( we’ve got you covered) 

This is not another Sudoku list – far from it.  You have in your hands a complete list of brain training apps, websites, games and daily exercises (device free).

It’s a platform friendly list. (android or mac users welcome).

The primary goal here is for you to have happy neurons for life. It needn’t be painful or tiresome so lets make it fun.   

In fact, I share with you the same information I give my clients so they can:

  • Improve their brain performance
  • Live fiercely and independently 

Commonly it takes just a few extra tweaks to boost their brain health  [ Make sure you grab the free bonus The 9 Must Dos For Your Brain To Thrive For Life: THIS IS the secret sauce to stay sharp)

Brain Training Evidence Finger Dementia Prevention Study Results

These fun brain games for seniors have been selected based on research principles. Importantly, it’s not just one thing that improves our brain performance but many.

Findings from studies like the FINGER STUDY shows us you can improve your brain performance.

The missing ingredient in most “brain games for seniors” is the lack of fun- the emotional charged good stuff.

AND fun really matters.

The Best 31 Fun Brain Games For Seniors List Helps You

  • Cut through the anxiety noise of COVID-19
  • If you’re having trouble with your memory, forgetting names & words on occasion, but put it down to “just something that happens”. Realize you can change that outcome and improve your memory significantly and this is a good place to start 
  • Put you in a better “State” to remember
  • Lowers your brain “Performance” age
  • Increase your memory, 
  • Sharpen your reasoning powers
  • Develop whip like working memory 
  • Expand your creative thinking
  • Accelerate your speed of processing
  • Create nurturing relationships at a time when this really matters

9 Brain Boosters to Make The Most Out Of Fun Brain Games (The Secret Sauce)

The Science Behind Online Brain Games For Seniors and Adults

Let’s Be Clear About A Few Things about Online Brain Games

Doing these exercises is based on an underlying assumption, Brian Games Work.

  • That there is a cognitive improvement benefit .

In 2014, two large groups of scientists, health professionals joisted over the pros, cons and evidence of “Online Brain Training” and put forth a consensus statement

One Side Argued- Against

“there is little evidence that playing brain games improves underlying broad cognitive abilities, or that it enables one to better navigate a complex realm of everyday life.” 

Standford_Brain Training Evidence_Scientific Community

The Other State – For

“a substantial and growing body of evidence shows that certain cognitive training regimens can significantly improve cognitive function, including in ways that generalize to everyday life.” 

Cognitive Data Brain Training Evidence

Compelling Strong Research Evidence 

The Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly (ACTIVE) trial was first large-scale, randomized trial to test the long-term outcomes of cognitive training effects on prevention of decline in daily function. 

Active Study Brain Training Discussion

 

So Where Does That Leave Us?

  • There is a big divide in the expert opinion field 
  • Driving this divide further is the structure of the research not controlling for the Perceived Opinion Benefit that your belief in the benefit may also have an effect on your results

Why Fun Brain Games for Seniors and Adults Really Matters

Brain Fit with Fun and Performance

We could take a large bridging step here and say that when an activity is matched to our skills, motivation, perception of pleasure – you’re going to be better at.  

Emotions and Memory Performance

  • Positive memories contain more contextual details – there for more accurate memory
  • Emotional arousal not “importance of information” which helps your memory.
  • Emotional arousal ( upbeat- happy- joyful yes all aspects of fun) appear to keep us in a readiness to respond so we’ve better attention 5.

Mood and Memory Performance

When your emotional state is positive – you tend to remember more positive events and the same goes with negative..

Also, you’re better able to remember when your mood matches the state in which you took in the information so mood matching is important. 

So, let’s keep it up beat

Brain Booster Tip: 

“Where your energy and attention goes neurons wire and/or grow” - David Norris

 Nearly 70% of baby neurons don’t survive into “adulthood”. 

So we often miss out on the power of integrating them into the rich neural network of our brain. 

2 Essential Ingredients

The 2 essential ingredients to help with this maturing of brain cells.

It appears you need 2 essential ingredients to help your neurons develop.

  1. Raise your heart rate is important to helping create new neurons, as well as 
  2. Novel, challenging and consistency helps them grow into adults

Here’s What You Need To Know About Creating The Best Type of Fun Brain Workouts For Seniors

It’s clear exercise improves your brain function. How well it appears to be a number of things like:

  • Creating new blood vessels ( referred to as angiogenesis), 
  • Creating of new neurons (neurogenesis), 
  • Creating new synapses (synaptogenesis), as well as the
  • Production of brain growth factors called neurotrophins. One of the well researched and  stand out neurotrophins is called Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF).  

Harvard Psychiatrist John J Ratey, MD most notably referred to this as “Miracle Grow” for the brain, or as I call it “Dynamic Lifter”. 

Movement + Raise Your Heart Rate + Mental Challenge

Linking movement, increasing your heart rate and adding in mentally stimulating + FUN activities together is one way to hit health pinata to boost your brain performance.

You’re activating many senses, many internal body processes to help your memory health.

If you’re not up for the movement challenges at least get a 20 min of effort walking in beforehand!

The 31 Best Fun Brain Games For Seniors and Adults

If you’re asking “How can you keep your brain active” then this list Is-A-Must-For-You.

But David, 

I’ve been doing sudoku,
I’ve been doing crosswords
Pfft….  I do cryptic puzzles

AND

Is this good for me?”

If I had a dollar every time I got asked this question.

Well I’d have a few dollars.

This is not a “Classic List” Seniors and Adults “fun games” you might be expecting.

 Far from it.

Below, I’ve assessed the following games under a lens of 

  • Fun: Emotion and mood has a powerful effect on you memory performance
  • Social: There are so many wonderful brain boosting opportunities when we do it together AND really, truly communicate.  Yes, even in the time of Coronavirus we can do this.
  • Hits the Brain Cognitive Skills that commonly decline as we get older
  • Are relatively Challenging

Are Diverse, they hit many brain functions

Exercise (Movement)  Games + Mental Challenges: 

Benefits: Raise the Heart Rate, Body Awareness,  Problem Solving Skills and Memory and Communication  (Movement Problems)

Here’s How Can You Dial Challenged Up or Down The Fun Brain Game Recommendations 

Dial Down: Difficulties with balance or endurance- do this with supporters like a handrail,  bench top, large sofa as a support

Dial Up: Increase weights, changes in heights, crawl through spaces  (under broom sticks), balance, non dominant hands

 

1. The Floor Is Lava

Yes the floor is lava, place objects on the floor, create an obstacle course at home

  • No “stuff” use the tiles, the floor markings, post it notes as zones, Using masking tape as “beams” have a destination- The morning cup of tea run could be soo  much more interesting
  • Share your adventure with friends
  • Need inspiration? With over 112million views  and to really have some giggles this is what you’re doing here.

A must watch for inspiration and a giggle or 2. ( It’s PGish) 

 

2. House Jenga- Big Blocks or Little Blocks

What You Need

  • Jenga Blocks, or uniform timber rectangles ( not too big as the bigger the block , the harder they fall )
  • Game Ideas: 
    • Short game – who can take out the most blocks in 5minutes
    • Long games – how long can the game go for
  • Upscale It: 
    • Change the position of the game floor, standing, standing one legged, you get the idea
    • Create a memory game ( word building or like stacking you have to remember the words that come before
    • Initiation game: Great with a fast game, include a category lets say African Animals: you alternate with your partner in physical and mental dual
  • Downscale – sitting, don’t re-stack on top instead remove a tile and place to the side.

3. Pipeline

You could do this social distancing style – but not recommended – requires 2 plus people

What You Need 

  • Grab 2 x pipe of PVC tubing 90mm wide by 900mm long (wide enough for a tennis ball). Some people have created “half tubes” where the pipe is cut in half making a channel if you will but this isn’t needed.
  • You’ll need a tennis ball

It gets harder with a smaller and smoother ball like a large marble or golf ball

How You Play 

  • Set a length, a course, an obstacle course.
  • Starting at one end, place the ball into the pipe whilst another person holds the pipe relatively level. The ball is to stay within tube and is to pass to the next person who is also holding the second tube
  • The first person moves around the other person quickly to get the ball and so on

The goal to get through the course, distance in the quickest time 

Great for challenges in households, between households, within communities or workplaces. 

 

Fun Brain Exercise_Movement Games and Mental Challenges Ideas

4. Movement Deck of Cards

  • Against each month assign an exercise, a movement, a task to each number and picture card in suit of a deck of cards. So there are 13 exercises matched from 2 – Aces
  • Daily or for when you need something novel unplanned shuffle a deck of cards and deal yourself or others 1 -2- 3 cards ( or more)

This is a lot of fun when you do this as a movement group. The collective groan, the sighs the yippies when a card is drawn adds to the experience. 

This is very doable as a group online.

Benefits of dancing on your brain health

5. Dancing – It Goes Without Saying This One Is  A Good 

Now, I appreciate this may not be “fun” for everyone.  

On the upside dancing has been observed to improve processing speed, build stronger, denser neural pathways.

This means that if you engage in jazz, jive, samba or another form of structured dance, can help boost your brain powers, especially for skills like convergent thinking.

  • Convergent thinking skills help you identify a single, appropriate answer to a problem. 
  • On the other side, divergent thinking helps you identify many solutions to a problem. For this skill doing more free form types of dance such as hip-hop or even Zumba.

Boxer-cise is another non learned, rapidly changing movement program. 

Yoga can also be in this category as well.  

Fun Group Problem Solving Brain Games For Seniors

Fun Group Brain Problem Solving Games For Seniors

6. Laser Webs

This fun brain games stack brain skills of Movement, Balance, Body Awareness, Auditory Processing and Memory plus more.

What You Need

  • Wool
  • Creativity
  • Some furniture

How You Play

  • Have a person set up a “spider web or laser web” using furniture or objects in the room 
  • The other person doesn’t see this “set up”
  • Now you’ve a few options here- the person does it with their eyes open and  so in that instance – what’s the point of the not seeing the set up OR
  • You could have the other person do this blindfolded with the other person either providing verbal instructions or allows the other person to do this in silence.

The Problem solving element here is when the blindfolded person is supported with verbal instructions. 

Ok, this no doubt will need some self assessment whether this is a good fit for you. 

It can be dialled down and can be a classical obstacle course. Race yourself against the clock.

 

7. Jigsaw Puzzle Traders

Hits the cognitive skills of – language, visual processing, working memory, problem solving plus more

What You Need

  • 1 Puzzle divided randomly between a minimum of  2 People 

How You Play

The aim is to build your pieces into the largest piece of the puzzle as quickly as possible. 

This means you’ll need to trade, swap, negotiate with your partner to do so.

Puzzles are fun, this adds just that little twist

 

8. Spaghetti Towers

Can be done solo, as a team and as a large group 

What You Need

  • 20 pieces of uncooked spaghetti ( limiting the number places a greater demand on fine movement coordination )
  • Marshmallows

How You Play

  • Build the tallest tower using the marshmallows and spaghetti within a certain time frame
  • Can be dialled up with movement limitations- one leg, one armed – great to challenge the non dominant side
  • Do it as a paired household team where you both can’t use your dominant hand but can help each other out at the same time
  • Change the height of your starting surface ( on the floor say on on cooking pan cause you’ll want those marshmallows for later right? )
  • Dialled down – use more rigid “poles” like skewers

Fun Memory Brain Games For Seniors

Fun Memory Brain Games for Seniors

9. Name That Era, Place, Object  

  • Set up a slide show, play it with neighbours or family or friends
  • Like visual trivia
  • With the more unusual objects you can tier it with questions like- when was it made, what was its use ( extra bonus points for funny reasons)

In a similar way you can play “Name that Tune”

 

10. Two Pack Playing Cards Memory 

  • The twist is to use slightly different packs because you want to match exactly
  • My son challenged me with a two pack of dinosaur cards. Yep, I was taken to the cleaners 🙁

How You Play 

  • Mix and spread the decks out on a level surface
    • Add movement challenges by placing it on the floor
    • Add a time pressure ( must take a go within 10seconds)
    • Place the cards down in different orientations is a real memory challenge as your environmental cues are taken away. You’d rely on these when they are in rows
    • Solo Games- compete against a friend, family or neighbour

11. Virtual Guess Who

How You Play 

  • Write down an animal, character name, book title etc 
  • Can be themed – Movie, Author, Book Title but this gives more “context” to the answer. 
  • The other person needs to guess out with yes / no questions 
  • The aim is to get your answer out as quickly as possible

Online Brain Training Games (Free to Paid)

Paid and Free Online Brain Training Games

Benefits of Online Brain Training Games:

These games are novel and entertaining. Can be done solo or in a group.  To milk the brain benefits I suggest those doing those games that hit hearing, auditory processing speed, vision, visual processing speed and memory skills.

I do find they can be a little monotonous after a while so the “ fun and novel” experience will likely wear off.  These programs make the novelty and challenge criteria BUT they lack other areas mentioned earlier.  

Free and Paid Online Brain Training Games (App and Websites)

There are Free and Paid versions of these brain games. 

12. Brain HQ www.brainhq.com/

  • Think faster, focus better, and remember more with BrainHQ—Improve your brain health with clinically proven brain training exercises.”

13. Brain Turk www.brainturk.com 

  • For kids and adults the “Brainturk games are designed to develop your intellectual, motor skills, emotional, episodic memory and communication skills.” Free and Paid options

14. PEAK www.peak.net/ 

Push your cognitive skills to their limits and use your time better with fun, challenging games and with fun, stimulating games and workouts. 

15. Lumosity  www.lumosity.com/

“Free in the iOS Store and Android Play Store, Lumosity offers an ever-expanding set of cognitive and scientific games designed to improve your working memory and stimulate your brain on a daily basis.”

# Lumosity: These guys did get in a bit of legal trouble with their marketing a few years ago BUT you’re so much more informed about the PROS and CONS of online brain games now- aren’t you?

Fun Navigation Problem Brain Games For Seniors

16. Treasure Hunt or Activity Brain Challenges 

Set a daily / weekly challenge or hunt to achieve a goal this can include:

Treasure hunts are fun as they can be cryptic as well with the clues that you use or are given. “You’ll find me where there is x ( cryptic clue)”

The limitation here is your imagination and that’s what I like about this activity. 

It  challenges you to push beyond the normal and to break out into new and novel patterns using abstract reasoning, problem solving and creativity.!

How You Play

Treasure Hunt or Activity Challenge:  They can both follow a similar format 

 

  • Create a list of activities to do for example 
    • Write a 80 word poem
    • Wear a blue something today which is visible
    • Find 20 things that start with 
    • List 3 things you’re grateful for 5 days in a row
    • Solve a sudoku / crossword puzzle ( ok it had to make the list somewhere)
    • Write a letter to someone
    • Create a picture diary of the day and share it with someone
    • etc

Fun and Novel Daily Life Activities ( With A Brain Twist)

Practice Neurobics To Keep Your Brain Sharp with Daily Routine Challenges 

  • This is about breaking up your daily activities like brushing your teeth and use as many senses as possible + movement + environment changes 

Neurobics_ Novel Daily Life Activities With A Brain Challenge Twist

Here’s Very Practical, Immediately Doable Examples of How to Bust Through Daily Brain Autopilot [14 examples] 

Hand Dominant Mix Ups

  1. Brush your teeth with the non dominant hand
  2. Drink with your non dominant hand
  3. Play a musical instrument with your non dominant hand
  4. Play cards with your non dominant hand
  5. Play scrabble with your non dominant hand
  6. Play “anything” with your non dominant hand

*You may need a cue to do this at first from notes to bracelets to prompt you to change. You can extra complexity or richness with movement, doing it to the beat of the music for example.

Hidden Guess What

  1. Guess the coins in your pocket or a sock – do it with your non dominant side as well
  2. In fact layer this with a mystery box of items and place them all in a sock, box of sand/ rice ( possibly not the most practical) 

Opening The Door Eyes Close 

25. Getting the keys out, finding the right one, orientating itto the lock and being aware of your body are all challenged with this exercise

Eating Eyes Closed 

26. How often are you truly aware  of the feed you eat?  An eyes closed eating experience dials you into one of the most powerful senses when eating – smell. You’ll also challenge  your hearing, awareness of food in your mouth, you’ll like be aware of other factors like your hunger or lack of it as well.

  • You could also add placement of food onto your fork or spoon but this could get messy quickly – just saying.

Attend To The Everyday

27. Count Your Breaths in a certain amount of time or when doing an activity

28. Count the number of simple beauties in the day you experience – it may be birds, plants, people, words, sounds

Different Routes to the ……..

29. Almost like the floor is lava, think  of different, new pathways to destination in the home, yard, complex or your community

Chalk It Up Course

30. On your driveway, parking areas, basement where ever you have access to a cement walking slab, using chalk create a movement course for you and your neighbours to do

  • Create chalk scoreboard of times!

Printable Fun Brain Games

31. There is a forest supply of printable activities out there searching for “Printable Free Brain Games” will give you more options than I care to poke a stick at

  • BUT beware these are very narrow in their brain skills and sensory experiences which going full circle to the top of the article are missing.
  • Make sure exercise is part of this.

HELP! I’m In Isolation – How Can I Do This?

There are many communication platforms that can help with connecting with friends and other “gamers”. Here’s technology options for either video or “non video” like texting.

Video Support Conferencing Services To Help With Gaming With Others

Video Conference Tools To Help Support Fun Brain Gaming with Others

Zoom: https://zoom.us/meeting

  • Has a free version which allows you to host multiple video connections in a “room” 

FaceTime – In Itunes app store

  • iphone to iphone app with the more recent phones allowing you to have many video connections

Google Hangouts 

  • For Android and Iphones

Skype: https://www.skype.com/en/

  • Like Zoom and has been around for a long time
  • Stay in touch! Free online calls, messaging, affordable international calling to mobiles or landlines and Skype for Business for effective collaboration.

Non Video – Text, Images

  • SMS 
  • WhatsApp
  • Viber

All SMS services listed above allow you to set up groups and you can access these tools via your relevant app store.

Do These 5 Things More Often to Milk The Brain Changing Benefits of Fun Brain Games

5 Tips To Change Your Brain With Brain Games

  1. Challenge: Keep your level of difficulty up around a 6- 8 out of 10 level of effort
  2. Novelty : Mix it up, keep it new
  3. Real World: Doing these games, but nothing beats real world activities that have so many cognitive challenges to it. 
  4. Raise the heart rate
  5. HAVE FUN 🙂 

Look, there are more activities here than you’d likely need to get you through the next pandemic lock down. 

Final Tips To Help Make Fun Brain Games Work At Home

  • Start with One and .. Have Fun
  • Play with it for a few days, maybe a week
  • Build out a “Home Olympics” challenge board

So, the question is which one are you going to do?

  • Movement + problem solving
  • Daily Brain Autopilot Circuit Breakers

9 Brain Boosters to Make The Most Out Of Fun Brain Games (The Secret Sauce)

 

 

What interests you the most?  

Comment below, what are you doing, what did you like, what would you like more of?  – love to hear from you [Plus a little thank you gift when you do]

David

Reference

  1. Stanford Scientific Concensus
  2. Cognitive Training Data 
  3. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0146167203253481
  4. Active Study
  5. https://www.pnas.org/content/99/6/4115

Can’t Go Past These Memory Health Made Easy Podcast Episode Recommendations

 

About The Author

About The Author

David Norris is an occupational therapist who has been in this practice for 20 years.

He has dealt with a lot of clients who seek help with their memory loss problems. David began asking himself about how these people can get ahead of these problems. It is then that he started teaching his clients how to improve their brain health to prevent memory loss.

David Norris is also the director and founder of Occupational Therapy Brisbane.

Disclaimer: Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have heard on the podcast or on my website.