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Tech Column: Brain Games for Seniors

Ashley Hallene and Jeffrey M Allen


  • Brain Health Maintenance: Cognitive decline in aging can be influenced by genetics and environment. Environmental factors, including brain exercises, can be controlled.
  • Brain Games and Activities: Sudoku, chess, and hidden object games aid cognitive function. Digital options like Sudoku Social, Woodoku,, and June's Journey are available.
  • Brain Training Apps: Lumosity and Peak offer games claiming to enhance memory, attention, and problem-solving skills, though studies show conflicting results.
Tech Column: Brain Games for Seniors Demarczyk

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Can you teach old dogs new tricks? We sometimes joke about forgetting things and having senior moments (admittedly, one of the two authors of this article is not quite at the senior moments age but she’s around seniors enough to know it happens). Generally speaking, two factors contribute to the decline of cognitive ability, one is genetics and the other is environment (nature and nurture always in struggle for balance.) You can control one of those two. When it comes to your environment, you can exercise your brain just like you would exercise your body. Both physical and brain exercises are enormously helpful in slowing down the degenerative loss that can come with aging. There have even been reports from studies conducted at universities that indicate playing brain games can improve mental health. Some computer games have been shown to be more beneficial than the medication, Lexapro, with positive results appearing after 4 weeks rather than the 12 weeks it takes the medication to take effect. 

Puzzles, word searches and brain games help keep the brain sharp. The brain acts like a muscle, and if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it. So, without further ado, let’s look at some brain training you can be doing from wherever you are. 

Sudoku, anyone? 

Sudoku is a great game for anyone who is keen on numbers. If you are not familiar with the game Sudoku, it is a number puzzle that originated in Japan. It consists of a box with numbers and several blank spaces. Each box, row, and column will ultimately contain a number (1-9) and that number can only appear once within a box, row, or column. Many newspapers and print publications contain sudoku puzzles that you can play for free. In the digital world, check out:

Sudoku Social: Sudoku Social is free to download in the iOS app store or the Google Play store. It features thousands of sudoku brain teasers and comes with 4 difficulty levels (Easy, Medium, Hard, and Expert).  The social aspect allows you to compare your best completion times with that of your friends across sudoku puzzles. You can select themes to customize the design of your game and unlock new themes as you progress through the game, eventually becoming the sudoku Grandmaster. 

Woodoku: Woodoku is a wooden-like block puzzle game on a sudoku grid. It is a relaxing but challenging experience. To play, you drag shapes onto the board and place them on the grid. Once you fill a grid block or square you will clear the blocks, making room for you place more blocks. There are daily challenge puzzles and weekly challenge themes, along with a beat your personal best game mode. It is relaxing in that it doesn’t feature a time limit. It is playable offline as well, making it a great distraction while flying.


Chess is a fun, challenging, and engaging activity that can help keep your mind sharp. Puzzles and games offer a wide range of social and emotional benefits. A great, and free, place to get started is over at On you can play live, daily games, make new (virtual) friends, watch instructive videos and try-out your new chess moves. 

Where’s Waldo?

Hidden object games, like the famous Where’s Waldo series, challenges users to find objects laid out in tricky, complicated puzzles. This activity aids your brain in identifying, recalling, and recognizing minor details. Some games to consider include: 

June’s Journey: June’s Journey is a world where you find the hidden objects to help solve a crime. It is free to download and play, but you can purchase virtual items with real money from within the app. It’s not necessary to spend your money to enjoy, and benefit from, the game. There is a social aspect to the game as well. You can join virtual clubs and compete in weekly detective league competitions. 

Hidmont/Hidmont II: This game challenges users to discover and locate hidden objects to complete riddles and quests throughout the game. The game is free to play, but there is an option to pay a fee for unlimited access. 

Hidden Folks: ( Imagine if Waldo’s world was redrawn by a New Yorker cartoonist and you have a picture of Hidden Folks. This PC/smart device game is a whimsical plunge into monochromatic minimalism. Every hidden object image is drawn by hand. They are then scanned into digital form, layered manually, animated, and scripted. Even the sounds in the game are mouth-made sounds, that are made (or rather 'yelled out') by the team behind Hidden Folks. 

The buzz about brain training

Specific brain training applications are designed with improving brain function as the goal rather than a side effect. In general, companies that provide these applications claim that you will see improvement in your memory, problem-solving skills, and comprehension if you spend around 15 minutes a day playing their brain games. 

Lumosity: This is an online program backed by science that features a collection of games designed to improve your memory, attention, mental flexibility, analyzing speed and problem-solving skills. You begin with a free 10-minute mental fitness test to set your baseline scores and determine how you compare with other people your age. The app incorporates 40+ activities with challenges for memory, speed, logic, problem-solving, math, language and more. 

Peak: Similar to Lumosity, Peak has 45+ games that include daily mental “workouts” and “coffee break” games for the mental athlete who is short on time. Over time, the app will show you insights into your growth and provide you with data-oriented feedback. 

There are conflicting studies as to the effectiveness of these applications. At best, these brain training programs may improve your function and ability in the specific skill you are training, but the improvement doesn’t extend to other areas of cognitive function. Most researchers agree that sleep, exercise, and time spent with friends will do more than any brain training app. The other means of improving cognitive function is education. Never stop learning. One easy way to flex your learning muscle is by checking out the free app, Duolingo, which allows you to learn a variety of languages anytime, anywhere (that you have an internet connection).  

There are loads of tools at your disposable for little to no cost. Whether you choose to move your body or flex those mental muscles, we hope you will stay active and stay sharp.