Keeping the Wheels Turning: Brain Games

As I’ve written about before, I try to keep my activities engaging: socially, physically, recreationally, and cognitively. Every other Tuesday, I use “brain games” to hit that last one, trying my best to find that balance between making my residents think really hard, and making things hard enough that frustration prevails.

A time-tested and well-loved activity is rebus puzzles. I transfer these puzzles onto large sheets of cardstock to make it easy for a group to see, and they have a great time talking out the answer, and always have a laugh when they figure it out. Here is an example of some rebuses I’ve recreated, but a quick Google search will help you find a whole lot more.

A game that is a bit more difficult, but activates the executive function center of the brain and exercises mental flexibility, is what we call the “Sneaky Color” game. I’d seen the idea before, but found a specific example on Pinterest from this site. I’ve used the first activity before (the warm up), and plan to use the second idea soon.

Another game that I find really fun and is pretty easy to adapt to the group you’re working with is Chain Reaction. I found this on the Game Show Network. The point of Chain Reaction is to connect two words by creating well known two-word phrases in a chain.

For example:





Paid vacation, vacation spot, and spot check are all pretty common two-word phrases. I often give clues to help them find the right word, and sometimes, if I think the phrase is particularly difficult, I’ll write in a letter or two to help them out. On the game show, each team places a bet, asks for a letter in the word they want to guess, and wins or loses money based on their answer. While we obviously are not playing for money (or any score), a variation of this game would certainly be to add another letter after every guess. You can find a list of chains (a mix of chains taken from the show, found online, and written by myself) on slideshare or download it here.

For slightly lower functioning residents, call-and-response type games or memory games are good, such as Hoy (a card game), or “I Have, Who Has” rhyming and “I Have, Who Has” shapes. While these are geared toward younger children, they can help seniors find words, use critical thinking, and translate an image into a word, which can become particularly difficult as we age.

What kind of activities do yo use to stimulate the brains of your elders? What games make them think the hardest, and which are the most fun? Please share your ideas in the comments!


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