Challenging yourself with a brain-teasing game for just two hours a week could help to slow the mental decline that is associated with the natural ageing process. Brain exercise for older adults is seen to be just as important as physical exercise, and it is not just for helping with a memory-related illness such as Alzheimer’s and dementia, as it can help with depression and fine motor skills.
The good news is mental stimulation is not that difficult, and there are plenty of brain teasers for older adults that can give their brain a workout a few times a week and also be plenty of fun.
Sudoku is a logic puzzle where the aim of the game is to complete a nine by nine grid with digits, so that each row, column and three by three sub-grid contains all the numbers from 1 to 9 with no repeat numbers. Each Sudoku puzzle has a single solution, and they are fairly addictive to do. The puzzle has been around in French newspapers since the 1800's, but modern versions became popular when a Japanese company introduced it, branding it Sudoku, which translates as ‘single number’. A Sudoku first appeared in The Times newspaper in 2004, and they have continued their rise in popularity. You can get books full of Sudoku puzzles ranging in difficulty and downloadable versions for smartphones and tablets.
The jigsaw – a puzzle that requires placing together interlocking and tessellating pieces to form a picture – dates back to the mid 18th century. John Spilsbury is believed to be the inventor of the jigsaw; he transferred maps onto small wooden pieces and labelled them ‘dissected maps’. These days, jigsaws are made to be educational and fun; they can also hugely benefit a person's health by improving their coordination, motor skills and memory. There seems to be an infinite number of jigsaws available to buy, not just those that lie flat on the table – 3D, spherical and double-sided jigsaws are an even bigger challenge you may want to face.
Did you know a person who enjoys or is proficient at solving crosswords is called a cruciverbalist?! The recognisable black and white word puzzle has a simple objective: fill in the spaces with interlinking words by answering a series of clues. The first crossword puzzle as we know it today was first published 1913, but square word puzzles were found in the ruins of Pompeii! In the 1930s, crosswords inspired the creation of Scrabble, another great brain exercising game, but in Paris during World War Two, crosswords were banned in case they were used to pass coded messages! Like Sudoku, you can find a crossword in the newspaper, buy crossword books and even download a crossword game app.
If you want to step up a gear from the standard crossword, try the cryptic crossword! The clues are more ambiguous, obliquely indicating what the answers could be. For example, an anagram clue tells you some words in the clue have to be rejigged; a charade clue is when one clue is combined with another to uncover the solution; a container clue is a set of letters or a small word placed inside another word, and a hidden word clue is an answer hidden in plain sight! Sounds very confusing, but once you know the rules and get the hang of it, the cryptic crossword is just another brain teaser you can conquer!
Author Lewis Carroll of Alice in Wonderland fame is the brains behind the word ladder. The puzzle, which may also be referred to as doublets, paragrams or word golf, starts with two words; to complete it, the player must find a chain of other words to link the two, in which two adjoining words differ by only a single letter. For example, if the first letter is ‘wine’, and the last ‘beer’, the words in between could be wins, wits, wets, bets and bees. Lewis Carroll is believed to have created the game in 1877 on Christmas Day, although did not share this until the following year. In 1879, he published a series of puzzles and solutions in the popular magazine Vanity Fair, which was then made into a book. Now word ladders are a common appearance in puzzle books and newspapers.
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