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My wife and I are in our 80’s and living in an Assisted Living Facility. My wife was recently diagnosed with early Stage Alzheimer’s Disease. We participate in many activities that keep us physically and socially engaged all day long. Our issues are in the evening, when it’s just the two of us. My wife is searching for “mind games” that we can play at night that may slow the progression of the Alzheimer’s. We are computer literate, that is we have an ipad (we skype with our grandchildren) and are able to navigate games and APPS.  There’s a lot of stuff out there. What do you recommend?

t’s wonderful to hear that, despite your wife’s memory problems, you both remain physically and socially engaged all day long. Keeping up your respective long-time hobbies and interests that you enjoy and find mentally stimulating, such as knitting, reading or music is also believed to enhance brain health.

A great resource for finding "mind games," or what's popularly known as "brain training" is the website of SharpBrains, a company that tracks health and wellness application of brain science. It's founder and CEO, Alvaro Fernandez, writes in his blog that  “Anything we do involving novelty, variety, and challenge stimulates the brain and can contribute to building capacity and brain reserve."

Fernandez advises spending time on a game “that exercises a core brain-based capacity... that is relevant to real-life outcomes.” For example, in his list of the “Top 50 Brain Teasers and Games” that his readers have enjoyed the most, is a set of five exercises that are intended to improve one’s ability to keep information current for a short period while using the information. Hmmm. I suspect it’s easier said than done.

He also writes that a minimum “dose of 15 hours, performed over 8 weeks or less is necessary for real improvement."  

The newest discoveries in Brain Science have focused on brain plasticity - how learning changes the brain by forming new connections between brain cells, or neurons. That’s why taking a class or workshop to learn something new, say, cooking, or even learning a new language can be beneficial. It’s also a wonderful way to meet people, outside your immediate circle of friends, who share the same interests.

Simple games like Sudoku, daily exercising, and even the Wii Video games provide mental stimulation and there are also several online cognitive training services, such as Lumosity, Posit Science, Dakim Brain Fitness and CogniFit that offer “personalized training” programs that they claim can improve memory and attention.