According to research presented at the 2014 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, the concept of “use it or lose it” applies to brain power — and playing brain exercise games is a great way to prevent memory loss as you age. Researchers have found that seniors who regularly played cards, participated in memory games, and worked on puzzles scored better on cognitive evaluations and had larger brain volumes than seniors who did not. What this means for you is that by playing games on a regular basis, you could remember more and prevent further memory decline. Let’s take a look at how these games function and at what you can do to start strengthening your brain today.

How Brain Exercise Games Work
The study, conducted by researchers at the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute and Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, found that seniors who played games frequently — including everything from puzzles to chess and poker — were prone to have larger brain volumes than those who did not. More importantly, that volume was in the regions of the brain that aid memory and reasoning skills. Unsurprisingly, these study participants also scored higher in tests designed to check for these skills.

Many people offer tips for seniors such as mnemonic devices to use when they’re trying to remember names or keep track of appointments; unfortunately, there’s no trick that can help you truly improve your memory. Brain fitness exercises, however, are designed for just that purpose. This is important because memory isn’t only about knowing when to send your grandchild a birthday card. It also plays an important role in driving, preparing meals, and remembering to take your medications. In this way, improving your memory may help you remain independent longer.

What Can You Do?
The best thing about brain exercise games is that you can start them today. Almost anything that gives your brain a workout is a good place to start. Reading a new book, completing sudoku puzzles, engaging in word searches, and playing card games are all great ways to exercise your brain. Organize a weekly chess match or bridge tournament with your friends, or do the puzzles in your newspaper on a regular basis. Always keep a book of brain teasers on hand in case an opportunity to work on them presents itself, such as completing a crossword puzzle while waiting for a doctor’s appointment.

There are several brain exercise game systems designed specifically to build memory and brain power. One example is Philips Brain Fitness, which is a version of Posit Science’s BrainHQ developed specifically for seniors. This system works on any computer or iPad, and it is both entertaining and easy to use. As you complete each level of the game, Brain Fitness adapts to exercise your weakest points. This means you’ll always get just the brain workout you need without even having to think about it. You can even request a free trial before joining.

Who says games and puzzles are just for kids? Recent research has shown that brain exercise games can help you think faster and more clearly. With improved memory, you’ll build confidence — and may even be able to increase your level of independence.