Memory Games for Adults: What to Play and Why

Older grandparents playing a game with two grandchildren at the dining room table.

As you get older, your risk for cognitive decline may increase. Approximately 9 percent of adults between ages 70 and 74 experience mild cognitive impairment, and that number climbs to 30 percent 10 years later.

However, you can take steps today to maintain a healthy mind tomorrow. Memory games for adults and other stimulating activities can help slow the mental aging process, and they appear to be especially beneficial for older adults.

Here’s why and how to keep your brain sharp.

The Importance of Exercising Your Brain

It’s crucial to keep your brain active for many reasons. For instance, it can improve your mood, emotional well-being, and overall quality of life. Exercising your brain can also reduce or delay your risk of cognitive decline. Some cognitive changes naturally happen with age, but more serious cognitive decline, like dementia, can make communication and daily activities challenging. So, maintaining a healthy mind benefits nearly every facet of your life.

4 Memory Games for Adults

Engaging games can stimulate your brain and slow down the effects of aging on your mind. Here are four examples.

1. Crossword Puzzles or Other Solo Games

One of the simplest ways to engage your brain is with mentally stimulating games you can play on your own at any time. Crossword puzzles can help with recall, and Sudoku provides great problem-solving practice.

2. Matching Games

Matching games can be a fun way to exercise your brain. As a bonus, they’re often a favorite with younger children, so if you have grandkids you can play with them.

3. App-Based Games

For better or worse, most people are never far from their phones. Instead of scrolling through social media, you can download apps that provide structured brain training programs. Lumosity is a popular example. The app offers games designed to exercise memory, speed, attention, flexibility, and problem-solving.

4. Mentally Stimulating Board Games

Board games that require you to think strategically—like chess, checkers, or backgammon—can effectively exercise your brain. Ideally, you’d play these with friends or family for the social aspect, but you could also play against a computer or fellow gamer online.

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Other Ways to Stimulate Your Brain

In addition to games, many other activities can benefit your brain.

Learn a New Skill

Do you have a hobby you’d like to master or a new one you’d like to try? Developing a new skill can be fun—and it focuses your brain in a way that leads to improved memory.

The key is to try a mentally stimulating or challenging activity, such as learning to play an instrument or speak a new language. Depending on the activity, you could even generate income from it. You may not need the money, but it could help give you a little extra drive.


You likely know physical activity is good for the body, but it directly impacts mental health, too. Physical exercise can improve memory and brain function, particularly in older adults. Aerobic exercise, yoga, dancing, and even weight lifting all provide brain-boosting benefits. You don’t have to join a gym or pay for equipment either—you can easily work exercise into your day for free.

Focus on Healthy Challenges

Regardless of the game or activity you choose, make sure it’s challenging. Games that require thinking, focus, or problem-solving typically provide the most benefits. And while brain games should be a regular part of your life, they don’t have to take up a lot of time. Have fun with it, and remember that every bit helps as you age.

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