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Card Games to Keep Your Mind Sharp and Brain Healthy


Fun activities to enjoy with family and friends keep the brain active

Studies continue to demonstrate1 that card games can help keep your mind sharp and your brain healthy. It is important to learn how to keep your brain healthy and participate in activities that promote positive well-being. Playing card games can improve short-term memory but have also been shown to improve long-term memory and other cognitive functions. Card games can even stimulate the body’s immune system by triggering use of visualization, memory and sequencing.

There are other benefits to playing cards as well – card games involve socialization and verbal interaction; they can mitigate boredom and depression that can often cause brain stagnation.  While playing card games can’t necessarily prevent the development of a degenerative disease like Alzheimer’s, it’s posited that regular brain stimulation of this kind could delay the onset of symptoms and allow a person to function at a higher level.

The most cognitively demanding card games are those that incorporate memory, strategy and attentiveness. It may be as simple as playing Go Fish, or as complex as an evening playing bridge. Even a robust game of Blackjack or poker requires perceiving and interpreting the subtle signals others emanate as they try to win the game, combining an array of both cognitive and interpersonal skills that keep the brain alert.

4 Card Games to Sharpen Your Mind

1)    Gin rummy is an old favorite that’s easy to learn and yet requires careful attention to what cards players have picked up and discarded. Canasta is another form of rummy that is a bit more challenging.

2)    Bridge is probably the most challenging, especially for the novice or uninitiated, but also the most stimulating for brain health.

3)    There are many popular poker games like Texas Hold’em and Seven Card Stud that are multifaceted; they require counting and concentration.

4)    Even playing cards alone can be beneficial. Solitaire is an example of a one-person card game. In Solitaire, the player seeks to unsort the mixed playing cards and stack them into four separate piles by suit; the game can help sharpen concentration and visual memory.

Playing card games such as, Hearts, Crazy Eights, War and Concentration are also great ways to keep your mind sharp. These specific card games and board games like checkers and Mah Jongg, backgammon and dominoes are common favorites among seniors. Chess is probably the most mentally challenging board game. Scrabble, where one is required to form words with a limited number of tiles, is my personal favorite. Crossword puzzles and Sudoku have also proven to get the mind activated and honed. Math puzzles like Sudoku train the brain in arithmetic, logical reasoning and quantitative reasoning. Even jigsaw puzzles can be a great mental stimulant. The New England Journal of Medicine2 found that people over 75 who engage in brain-stretching activities like chess are less likely to develop dementia than their peers who don’t play board games.

Card games can improve concentration, memory and analytical skills, but just as important what a great way to spend a relaxing evening or afternoon enjoying both the social and mental enrichment that playing cards provides. The cognitive benefits of playing cards are especially notable when it comes to seniors.

Cards Games Beneficial Even for the Impaired3

Playing cards has wonderful benefits for people with disabilities as well, especially those with cognitive deficits. People with disabilities can also exercise their memory and recall skills with basic match games. The possibilities are endless: they can use cards to count, match, identify numbers, study shapes and patterns, and even work on basic adding, subtracting, and multiplying skills.

Games where they interact with others help to keep mentally challenged people’s social skills fresh. These games can include card games like poker or Go Fish, depending on the level of competence. Checkers, Chinese checkers, board games and bingo are all games that assist the mentally challenged in keeping up communication skills because they have to interact with other players and let their needs be known. Any types of games that include interaction, such as guessing games or memory games, are also useful as ways to help build social skills for mentally challenged adults.





About The Author

Cheryl Popp

An accomplished freelance writer and editor, Cheryl is passionate about how to bolster our resilience in old age and reshape the course of decline. Her compassion and understanding for caregiving stems from acting as a caregiver for her mother, who struggled with dementia, and her father, who suffered from Parkinson’s.

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