Boosting brainpower: The benefits of digital puzzles for sharper minds

Aug 23, 2023
Similar to physical health, maintaining mental agility is crucial at every stage of life. Source: Getty Images.

Over the years, we’ve all cherished video games and puzzles. And now, it seems that diving into the latest strategy game or tackling a Wordle challenge could actually give our memory and focus a meaningful boost.

Researchers from the University of York in England wanted to test the positive benefits of gameplay after theorising that the types of games people play could impact working memory and people’s ability to ignore distractions.

As part of their study, researchers analysed data from 482 participants who ranged in age from 18 to 81.

The scientists divided them into two categories: the younger adult group (ages 18–30) and the older adult group (ages 60–81).

The participants were asked to describe their gaming habits, including how often they played digital games, the types of games they liked to play, and how much time they spent playing.

Based on this information, the researchers then sorted the younger and older participants into groups. These groups included those who didn’t play games and those who reported playing different types of games, which included:

  • Action
  • Strategy
  • Puzzle

The study’s findings indicated that older adults who enjoyed digital puzzle games had a stronger working memory than those who played other types of games or didn’t play at all.

Moreover, the research showed that older adults who played digital puzzle games were better at ignoring distractions compared to their counterparts.

Dr. Joe Cutting, from the University of York’s Department of Computer Science, said, “generally people have a good ability to ignore irrelevant distractions, something we call ‘encoding distraction’. We would expect for example that a person could memorize the name of a street while being distracted by a child or a dog, but this ability does decline as we age.

“Puzzle games for older people had this surprising ability to support mental capabilities to the extent that memory and concentration levels were the same as a 20 year-olds who had not played puzzle games,” Cutting said.

Source: Getty Images.

Similar to physical health, maintaining mental agility is crucial at every stage of life. Engaging in brain games and puzzles serves as a mental exercise that may help reduce the risk of cognitive decline.

Brain training apps have become increasingly popular in recent years, offering a convenient and accessible way for older adults to exercise their brains and improve mental agility. These apps often feature a variety of games and exercises designed to challenge different cognitive skills such as memory, attention, and problem-solving.

With that in mind, here are the top brain games that can help keep your brain active and healthy after 60.

Mobile apps

  • Duolingo

Though Duolingo is specifically designed as a language-learning app, learning a new language is an excellent way to exercise your brain and improve cognitive function. It requires mental effort, concentration, and memory skills, which can provide several benefits for the brain

Key features

  • You can learn over 35 different languages
  • Offers bite-sized lessons with loads of fun interactive activities to keep you engaged while you learn
  • Easy to follow progress tracker and caters to your individual skill level, learning style, and pace.


  • Left vs. Right: Brain Games

Per the app’s developer, Left vs. Right: Brain Game “can keep your mind sharp and help prepare you for a day full of challenges and new problems to solve!” All their brain games are designed to help improve your memory, concentration, observation and critical thinking skills.

  • Offers over 50 games in 6 different categories to test and train your brain
  • Has colourblind mode

  • Peak

Peakis another mobile app designed for cognitive remediation through the use of short interactive games. The games offered in the app have been designed in collaboration with scientists from esteemed institutions such as Cambridge to ensure their training programs target and challenge specific skills such as memory and attention.

Key features:

  • Has over 40 games ranging in difficulty and duration
  • The app has a “personal trainer for your brain” which helps choose the best games for your needs


Brain training websites

  • CogniFit: Brain Training

CogniFit is a website designed by neuroscientists that offer “scientifically validated tasks to precisely measure and train cognitive skills”. The website aims to not only stimulate but also potentially rehabilitate specific brain functions, making it one of the more beneficial brain training sites for seniors.

CogniFit also offers users the option to select customised programs that cater to specific needs, such as coordination, driving, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, depression, and insomnia, and even includes games tailored for those aged 55 and over.

  • BrainHQ

BrainHQ is another website created by a team of neuroscientists. Back by 30 years of research, BrainHQ offers various levels of activity that aim to enhance cognitive speed, memory, attention, and social skills. These exercises utilise an algorithm that monitors your progress and adjusts the difficulty level accordingly, providing optimal benefits that cater to your individual needs.

Brain training games can be an effective and enjoyable way for seniors to maintain and improve their cognitive abilities.

Whether you’re looking to boost memory, sharpen problem-solving skills, or simply have fun while keeping your mind active, there’s a brain training game out there for you.


IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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