Dear Savvy Senior,
Can you recommend some brain-fitness computer games that are designed to help seniors keep their minds sharp? I love to play solitaire on my computer, but I'm interested in expanding to some other games that can benefit my mind and memory.
There are actually a handful of great brain-training websites and computer software products on the market today that are backed by research and proven to help boomers and seniors improve their memory, slow age-related mental decline and even build a stronger brain. But there's no evidence these games will prevent Alzheimer's disease.
Here are the best options to consider:
If you're interested in exercising your brain but don't want to spend a lot of money, brain-training websites are a good place to start. While there are many sites offering games that claim to sharpen the mind, the most valid and highly rated one is Lumosity.com, who said it has 15 million users.
Developed by neuroscience researchers from Stanford University and University of California-San Francisco, Lumosity offers more than 35 games and exercises aimed at increasing alertness, sharpening memory skills, improving concentration and faster thinking. The games are fun and engaging, and in each game, as your skill improves, the tasks become progressively more difficult to keep you challenged. The costs $14.95 a month or about $80 for a one-year subscription. Lumosity even offers mobile apps for smart phone users, so their customers can train wherever they are.
Another good site to check out is Cognifit.com. This website starts with a brain fitness assessment that lets you know where your stronger areas are and where you could use some extra training. Cognifit offers approximately 20 games that are free to play, or you can pay $4.95 for each of their two advanced games for memory and concentration training.
In addition to the websites, there also are a number of computer software brain-training products you can purchase and use on your home computer.
Some of the best are made by Posit Science, which sells three types of brain-training software.
The software includes "Brain Fitness," which speeds up and sharpens the auditory system of the brain for faster thinking, sharper focus and better memory; "InSight," which targets visual processing to improve how your brain takes in, reacts to and remembers what you see; and "DriveSharp" which strengthens the cognitive skills essential for safe driving.
All software is available in PC and Mac versions. The only downside is the price. You can buy the Brain Fitness and InSight software together for $690 or individually for $395 each. The DriveSharp software costs $89.
Another excellent option is Dakim BrainFitness Software, which costs $249 and is designed specifically for adults over 60, as well as for seniors with memory loss. And for non-computer users, Diakim offers a touch-screen console for $2,349 that's pre-loaded with BrainFitness software. Just plug it in and you're ready to go.
No computer needed
If you don't want to rely on a computer for playing brain-boosting games, consider electronic games such as Brain Age, Brain Age 2 and Big Brain Academy. Made by Nintendo, these games cost approximately $20 each, but to play them, you'll need to purchase a hand-held Nintendo DS Lite game unit, which is approximately $100.
There are also dozens of mind-challenging books and puzzles you can purchase that can help, too, such as "Keep Your Brain Alive: 83 Neurobic Exercises" by Lawrence Katz and Manning Rubin, and "The Big Book of Mind Bending Puzzles" by Terry Stickels.
Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of "The Savvy Senior" book.