Jigsaw Puzzles for Seniors
Puzzles are often considered to be a very important part of childhood development. Problem solving skills, spatial recognition and left and right brain connection are all necessary skills that children are encouraged to develop.
While we are employed and going to work every day, or engaged in the day to day tasks of our early adult and middle-aged years, we are consistently using all of the skills that we developed as children.
For some people however, as they grow older, they have less and less reason to use the cognitive skills that they were formerly employing all day long. Senior citizens tend to find themselves isolated from family and friends as they are increasingly less able to drive themselves around and cannot ambulate as easily.
Thankfully, society has become more aware of the plight of senior citizens in recent years. The combination of new Alzheimer’s research and experiments with the kind of care that can improve cognition have led to much of this new awareness of the needs of senior citizens.
Jigsaw puzzles are uniquely suited to access skills that seniors have not needed to utilize since they retired from their jobs. Shape recognition, memorization, spatial awareness and hand-eye coordination are all necessary to the process of assembling puzzles. These skills are often the gateway to improved brain function.
For seniors who have become depressed or feel like they no longer have a purpose, being able to sit down and build a puzzle affords them the opportunity to work on an activity with a set goal that provides them the chance for success and a feeling of intention.
For seniors who are still able to drive, puzzles help reinforce skills that are necessary to allow them to continue their independence. For seniors who are not suffering from any kind of memory loss or decreased cognition, puzzle building has been proven to delay the onset of these issues. Many studies indicate that building jigsaw puzzles can delay the onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms by a minimum of six to nine months.
Studies have indicated that working with puzzles leads to better scores on IQ tests. Some studies indicated that adults who spent time working on puzzles were able to increase their score on an IQ test by up to 25 points. Studies like this are able to prove the direct correlation between brain function and the mental challenge that is required to solve a puzzle. In one study, participants in the senior grouping showed mental acuity that was eight to tens years younger than their physical age.
It is a sad truth, backed by studies, that as much as 50% of those in nursing homes have no close relatives to come visit them. It is estimated that 60% of those in nursing homes never have a visitor. These senior citizens are the forgotten population and are the most likely to succumb to cognitive issues and Alzheimer’s through lack of stimulation, depression and lack of socialization.
Thankfully, even if their families are not able to come visit them, nursing care professionals are armed with some simple, yet effective tools to help these senior citizens to stay on track. Many healthcare professionals report the improvements that they see when a group of senior citizens under their care are encouraged to work on jigsaw puzzles.
If they are able to do so in a group, the image often sparks conversation that accompanies the work. Social connection can lead to lower stress levels, help with high blood pressure and stave off the chances that a senior citizen will start to decline into the first stages of a variety of cognitive problems.
Beyond the social connection offered by puzzles, the increased mental acuity and the aforementioned goal-setting nature of puzzles can go a long way toward keeping an older person mentally engaged and challenged.
If the senior citizen in your like if lucky enough to still be in their own home, or perhaps to be living with your family, it can be a wonderful bonding experience to have the whole family work on a puzzle together. After all, all ages can benefit greatly from the skills that are needed to solve a puzzle.
Additionally, if you have children in the house, they can spend some quality time with the senior family member that is living with you while they work on a puzzle with them.
Our busy and hectic modern lives are often the force that drives apart social bonds. Jigsaw puzzles are a great way to encourage the kids to put away their phones and to help keep a grandparent that is living with you from feeling alone and bored all day.
It is wonderful to think that something as simple as a puzzle can be such a perfect solution for the needs of our senior population while also serving as a great tool for social bonding.