Published on June 19th, 2015 | by Nicole Jekich1
Board Games for Your Brain
The Importance of Mental Health
Earlier this spring I said goodbye to my Oma, an amazing lady who had been fighting Alzheimer’s for the past few years. She is the same amazing lady who first taught me poker and card games when I was 10 years old and how to bluff my much older relatives. She laughed and snorted the first time I bluffed her old poker buddy and won the hand with a straight on the first deal. She was always a ball of energy and was a big supporter of my love of games and art. I miss her dearly.
Her death put into perspective the need to focus on my own well-being and health and to let others know about this debilitating disease. Nearly 1 in 3 seniors die from complications of Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Of those American’s suffering from Alzheimer’s, two-thirds of those people are women. Currently there is no cure for this disease and treatment only slows the progression of the symptoms.
As we wait and continue to support organizations looking for a cure, there are ways to strengthen your brain and lessen the effects of mentally degenerative diseases. Your brain is a muscle that needs exercise just like the rest of your body in order to stay healthy.Thankfully, board games are a fun, social and entertaining option to get that mental stimulation in your life.
Board Games = Exercise For Your Brain
Board games offer unique problem solving challenges and thematic situations that people of all ages can enjoy. Different board games can challenge a player’s creativity, memory, math skills, comprehension, pattern recognition and many more once reliable skills that fade with mental degeneration. Also unlike the daily crossword puzzle, board games encourage social interaction and put seniors in an environment where they can learn and interact with other people.
Now before you grab granny and sit her down to play Twilight Imperium with you I have some recommendations that you may want to hear. When picking out games to play with the grandparents, I would opt for games that are simplistic, colorful and brief. Too many pieces can be overwhelming; text that is too small makes comprehension more difficult and games that are too long could bore or put your relative to sleep (even I have fallen asleep during Twilight Imperium).
I recommend classic word games like Boggle, Scrabble or other variants like Paperback, especially if your grandparent does a lot of reading or has a large vocabulary–they may find that they are quite skilled in this game. Splendor and Dixit are great examples because their components are large, colorful and lack text. These are just a few basic examples so be creative and ask your grandparents what games they enjoy or maybe find a game that has personal significance to them. I always find that people enjoy games more when they have an emotional connection or interest in the theme or story.
In addition to challenging your brain through games and other mentally stimulating activities, The Alzheimer’s Association has other tips for good brain health.
How to Help
Bring Alzheimer’s awareness to your friends and family this Sunday, June 21st by pledging or sharing the “The Longest Day”– an annual event held by the Alzheimer’s Association. This event encourages families and friends to get together for an entire day, wear purple and celebrate life with a fun event (like a board game!) to spread the awareness of Alzheimer’s.
Is there a board game that you play with your grandparents or seniors in your family? I’d love to hear your answer in the comments.