Five Activities for Older Adults that Stimulate the Mind

February 6, 2017

Bored at homeFor many, aging can be a difficult transition. Your body might have more physical limitations — maybe you used to love mountain biking, but can’t pedal any longer because of a knee replacement. Or you might be feeling bored now that you are retired and no longer have the same intellectual stimulation from work.

Well, we’ve come up with five of the best activities that will stimulate your mind — and they’re appropriate for older adults of just about every age and physical capability.

If you’re an older adult — or are taking care of an aging loved one, these simple activities will be fun, easy, and entertaining.

1. Learning (or Relearning) a Language

You’ve learned another language — or tried to — at some point in your life. Whether it was mandatory high school class, a jaunt to France in college, or a personal interest in more complex and difficult languages like Mandarin Chinese or Japanese, we bet you’ve got some books collecting dust somewhere in your house.

So break them out! There’s never a bad time to try. Most languages have common words that help correlate meanings, you can already distinguish between sounds, and if you choose to learn a new language…chances are, you’ll be far more motivated.

Besides allowing you to communicate with other people, the best thing about learning or relearning a language is the difficulty and complexity of doing so — this challenge stimulates the mind and challenges your learning skills in ways that no other activity can.

2. Reading – or Listening to Audiobooks

Okay, this isn’t exactly a groundbreaking activity — many older adults do read, and enjoy it. But reading is good for the brain, and it stimulates the imagination and your senses, transporting you to another world.

If there’s a book you’ve been meaning to read for a while, sit down and get to it – or if you haven’t gotten anything new to read, try looking at some lists of recommendations like NPR’s Top 100 Sci-Fi and Fantasy books, or Modern Library’s list of the 100 Best Novels or 100 Best Nonfiction Books – or just visit your local library and get some recommendations. You’re sure to find something that catches your interest.

If you have difficulty reading or would prefer not to, audiobooks can offer a very similar experience and are available for most best-sellers on services like If you qualify as blind or disabled, you could be eligible to rent braille and audio materials from the National Library Service – see their website for details here.

3. Board Games or Puzzles

Board games are a great way to stimulate your senses and engage with loved ones and have been shown to improve brain function. However, they usually require at least two players, so you may not always be able to play your favorite games.

Puzzles can easily fill that gap – either jigsaw puzzles, or classic pen-and-paper puzzles like crosswords and Sudoku, word jumbles, and others.

Puzzle books can be readily found on Amazon, and provide you with more puzzles to solve if you’re seeking challenges that are more advanced (or numerous) than those found in newspapers.

Puzzles like these are shown to help stimulate your brain and improve critical thinking, among other mental health benefits.

4. Smartphone Puzzle and Game Apps

If you’re not interested in pen-and-paper games and puzzles, and you have a smartphone, a smartphone app might be just the thing for you. Smartphone apps have many benefits – they’re easy to use, readily available, and usually quite simple in their design.

There are quite a few popular smartphone apps on the market that are built specifically with challenging the mind and stimulating intellectual brain function – these include Luminosity, Cognifit, and Brain Trainer Special, among others.

While some may have a bit of trouble getting acclimated to these sorts of games, they offer great, constantly-varying challenges that are as fun as they are intellectually stimulating, making them a great choice if you’re bored.

5. Connect With Loved Ones – Near or Far

Socializing can be hard if you’re homebound, or have physical disabilities or other health problems that make long distances to visit loved ones challenging.

So instead of visiting them physically, you can connect with your loved ones around the world with modern video chatting technology like Skype. Connecting with loved ones can help keep you feeling young and happy. Additionally, socializing is extremely important for the mental health of older adults, and helps maintain a higher quality of life.

Connecting with loved ones remotely can be a fantastic way both to socialize and to improve mood, and modern technology makes it easy. If you’re looking to get started with these kinds of modern applications and are unfamiliar with how to use them, ask a loved one or caregiver for help getting started. You might also consider taking a technology class offered at your local library.

Start Challenging Your Mind…

While this list certainly isn’t exhaustive, it’s a great starting point. These challenging, intellectually stimulating activities can be done by just about anyone, and are a fantastic way to improve your mental health, entertain yourself, and keep yourself busy – all from the comfort of your own home.

By Jessica Hegg

This is a guest post written by Jessica Hegg. Jessica is the content manager at Interested in all things related to a healthy lifestyle, she works to share valuable information that aims to improve the quality of life for others.