- Games, Toys, and Hobbies
Playing Card Games Promotes Senior Brain Fitness
Playing Cards Helps Keep Your brain Fit
Exercise Your Brain To Keep It Fit
Getting older is a fact of life. While we fight the physical effects of aging with exercise and diet, we should also be concerned with our brain fitness. Seniors who see signs of memory loss may also fear losing their cognitive abilities as they age. However, new research shows that new brain cells continue to be produced even as we age. Many studies of older people have determined that decline in brain power is not inevitable, but can be slowed by actively exercising our brains and challenging our new brain cells with a variety of stimulating activities. Sticking to familiar and routine activities will not stimulate these new cells. Just as our bodies need physical exercises and training to keep fit, so our brains need to be exercised to keep fit.
Keep Those Neurons Firing
The National Institute on Aging says that strategy games, board games, word games, Sudoku, crossword puzzles and card games are all brain fitness exercises. Some of these exercises are enjoyed alone while others have the added benefit and stimulation of social interaction.
Playing cards is one activity that many people have enjoyed all their lives. Continuing to play card games will help seniors maintain their brainpower as they age.
Choose Challenging Card Games Like Pinochle, Bridge or Canasta
When choosing card games to play for brain fitness, bypass those endless games of solitaire that become routine and boring. Instead, play games like pinochle, bridge or canasta that exercise memory, concentration, strategy and math skills. Choose something new and challenging, and make an effort to learn new games every so often. Games that involve concentration, reasoning, problem solving, memory, information processing and focus will stimulate brain cells and keep neural pathways functioning. By challenging brain cells with these kinds of games, the neuron pathways are stimulated and continue to grow and develop despite cell damage that may be caused by aging or medical conditions. Variety, in this case, is not only the spice of life, but it is critical to keeping those neurons firing.
Brain Fitness Programs
Card Games Improve Math Skills and Memory Skills
What better way to keep mentally fit than to get together with friends to learn a new game or enjoy an old favorite? Playing card games can help keep senior minds active by learning playing strategies and using math skills. Improve memory skills by playing games that depend on remembering which cards have been played and which are still likely to be in the opposing players’ hands. Sharpen math skills by quickly adding points played and keeping score – and leave that calculator in the drawer! Doing simple math in your head will exercise those brain cells! Card games that require players to develop strategies will force those new brain cells to connect and become active.
How to Play Hand and Foot
Card Game Rules
Looking for card game rules? The United States Playing Card Company has a great website with rules for every card game imaginable. http://www.usplayingcard.com/
Some Old Favorite Card Games
One of my favorite games is Hand and Foot, a version of Canasta that we learned a few years ago while camping with some friends. This is a great game to play with 4 or 6 people. It’s played with partners using regular playing cards (one more decks of cards than there are players). Each player has two playing hands containing 11 cards (13 by some rules) each, one stack is called the Hand, the other the Foot. The game is fast paced and fun with just enough complexity to make it a challenge. Played by building stacks of cards called “books”, there are many things to watch for at one time, keeping all players on their toes.
Another family favorite is Pinochle. While the game itself is easy to learn, the players who remember which cards have been played are the most successful. There is also a strategy to playing the cards once the meld has been put on the table.
Various versions of Rummy can be deceptively simple or more complex. One of my favorite Rummy games is Shanghai Rummy which is played like Rummy, but with different combinations of runs and sets required for each round, the game keeps players on their toes as they try to get on the table and use all of their cards first.
Want to learn a new game that will exercise your brain? How about learning to play Bridge, Whist, Cribbage, Canasta or Texas Hold ‘Em?
Which card game do you enjoy the most?
Playing Cards Teaches Skills
Although this article is dedicated to brain fitness in seniors, playing cards is fun and useful for all ages. Card games can be used to teach children basic math skills, matching and observation, numbers and social skills. What better way to combine senior brain fitness exercises with teaching children some valuable skills than to play card games with your grandchildren?
In tough economic times, getting together with friends to play cards or board games is also an economical way to entertain. A stimulating evening or afternoon of cards not only keeps our minds active and alert as we age, but is a great excuse to socialize, laugh and have fun. And never underestimate the importance of laughter and fun to healthy, active minds.
Copyright ©2012 Stephanie Henkel
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