Lifestyle

Cognitive Activities for the Elderly

View a great slideshow of fun activities for the elderly
View a great slideshow of fun activities for the elderly

Cognitive activities for the elderly help to keep their minds sharp and alert while reducing the risk or delaying the onset of age-related dementia.

The Importance of Mental Exercise

There are a number of elderly people that never show any signs of an age-related decline in cognitive functions. However, there is a greater number of older seniors that do experience a loss of cognitive skills and abilities to varying degrees. For most of them the decline is part of the aging process caused by the death of brain cells. For others, dementia is the result of an illness or disease such as Alzheimer's Disease, Multiple Sclerosis or Huntington's Disease.

Just as the body needs physical exercise to keep fit, the brain needs mental exercise to stay active and alive. Mental exercise stimulates the brain, often providing long-lasting positive effects regarding thinking and reasoning skills, memory and processing speed.

What are Cognitive Skills?

The definition of the word cognition, means the process of knowing and includes all of its aspects, such as:

  • Reasoning
  • Awareness
  • Perception
  • Knowledge
  • Intuition
  • Judgment

Cognitive skills are the mental capabilities that a person has which allow them to process all the information they receive from their five senses. These skills are needed for a person to be able to think, talk, learn or read. They are what gives a person the ability to recall things from memory. Cognitive skills also are needed to:

  • Analyze the images and sounds their senses perceive.
  • Maintain concentration.
  • Draw associations from various pieces of information.

Cognitive Activities for the Elderly Improve Skills

There are many types of activities that help to maintain and improve the cognitive skills of older seniors. Some of them involve everyday activities. Other mind-challenging activities include playing games, making crafts and solving puzzles.

Everyday Activities That Strengthen Cognitive Skills

One of the most important cognitive activities for the elderly is engaging and meaningful conversation. Often as people age, they withdraw from social interaction, giving them fewer opportunities to talk to others about things that are important to them. By asking their opinions and advice on situations and events, their minds are stimulated and they experience a feeling of self-worth.

Slightly changing an everyday activity is another way to enhance cognitive skills. Examples include using the opposite hand to hold the toothbrush when brushing your teeth, writing your name or dialing a telephone.

Hobbies and Crafts

Learning a new hobby or taking up a craft are excellent ways for elderly individuals to keep their brains active and alert. These activities stimulate the brain cells and often provide interaction with others. Finding something that interests the elderly person provides them with enjoyment and a sense of positive self-esteem. Many of these activities also help the elderly to maintain eye and hand coordination and fine motor skills. These activities engage and stimulate the brain even more by sending it electrical impulses that signal pleasure from the activity. If the person has a physical limitation such as a shortened attention span, arthritis or poor eye-to-hand coordination, modify a craft or hobby in ways so they can still enjoy being part of things that make them happy.

Depending on the seniors interests and abilities, the following are examples of possible crafts or hobbies they may enjoy.

  • Drawing
  • Painting
  • Knitting
  • Playing music
  • Scrapbooking
  • Woodworking
  • Mosaics using tiles or colored paper
  • Photography

Games and Puzzles

Playing games and solving puzzles are excellent cognitive activities for older seniors. These types of activities engage the brain keeping it stimulated and vital. The following are games and types of puzzles that many older seniors enjoy.

  • Games
    • Dominoes
    • Checkers
    • Chess
    • Card games
    • Scrabble
    • Bingo
  • Types of Puzzles
    • Jigsaw puzzles
    • Crossword
    • Word search
    • Sudoku
    • Crypto quotes

    Many websites offer games and puzzles that are modified for seniors with physical limitations. These include puzzles with oversized pieces, large print puzzle books and playing cards. Several of these online stores include:


Having older seniors participate in cognitive activities for the elderly help keep their minds active and alert and actively engaged in life. Activities for the elderly should always be age-appropriate, because it is important to maintain the individual's self-respect and dignity.

Cognitive Activities for the Elderly