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Play Word Games for a Healthy Brain

Updated on October 15, 2017

Grandpa, by the Judds

Grandpa, who encouraged me to be the best I could be
Grandpa, who encouraged me to be the best I could be

The other day I met an elderly friend in the local Starbucks. She lives in an independent living care home and each month they have a contest to see who can find the most words in a word. This month the word is GRANDCHILDREN. Did you know there are over 900 words (including 3-letter words) using those letters? I was amazed.

Playing these kind of brain games is a wonderful way to improve our mind-health. My friend is determined to win--she studies the dictionary and talks to people about this challenge so she can learn how to improve her score. The Internet has many sites where people can play brain games and learn how to improve their brain health in a fun and interesting way. Here are two examples of sites to explore: or Luminosity.
I’ve always been fascinated with how we learn, how we can develop our brain muscle, and how we can keep it active and in shape. Our brain is a muscle that has to be exercised or it will atrophy just like any other unused muscle in our body. I have never accepted the myth that we get too old to learn something--it is never too late to get in brain-shape.

When my grandpa was 86 years old he traveled by train from Manitoba to British Columbia to visit his children and grandchildren. The day before he was booked to return he had a severe stroke and ended up in hospital instead. When he was stable and released from hospital, he came to live with us for a few months.

During this time, people resigned themselves to wait-and-see how much he would recover. Something inside of me just would not accept this fate and I started working with him to get his mobility and mind function back. He always was a very creative person and so I found a craft that we could learn and practice together. Many times he wanted to quit but I was determined not to let him. Gradually he improved and mastered the skills required--this gave him the hope and renewed desire to live. He was determined to get back to the life he loved and eventually was able to return to his home--he resumed woodworking in his basement shop, regained his speech (he loved to visit!), and started to drive again.

I knew in my spirit that this was possible long before the research validated my beliefs. A person has to be willing to put in the time and effort it takes to help someone “come back.” It takes love, determination and creativity to find what works for our loved one when an overextended medical system does not have the time or resources to help us. The effort is rewarding, however, when we see how it greatly improves their quality of life.

This experience taught me a valuable lesson--a person can learn and retrain their brain at any age if they are willing to work at it. If we develop a healthy brain, it will improve our own aging experience. So, let’s join my Starbucks friend in this brain work-out session: How many words can you find in GRANDCHILDREN?


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