As children, a challenging jigsaw puzzle could keep us occupied for hours. Not only was it fun to sit together as a family, jigsaw puzzles helped develop spatial and visual skills as we grew up. Although our parents never told us that. These aptitudes follow us into adulthood, but can fade, especially for seniors living with Alzheimer’s or Dementia. Piecing together a jigsaw puzzle is excellent exercise for the brain to hone these skills again. There are other benefits to making jigsaw puzzles. Here are seven benefits for seniors with Dementia:
- It’s a Brain Workout – Making a puzzle uses both sides of the brain. While the right side is exercising the creative thoughts of the image on the puzzle, the left side is using logic and reason to piece the puzzle together.
- It Makes Them More Focused – And when they are focused on a task, they are less agitated. Puzzles require concentration, which can help loved ones relax.
- Increased Memory and Perception – Depending on the image, the puzzle can jog the senior’s memory. They can still recall holiday scenes or classic images from magazine covers like Norman Rockwell paintings, and spark conversations.
- Interaction with Others – While puzzles can be a solitary activity, making one with someone else can provide conversation, collaboration and shared accomplishments.
- Improved Physical Health – A calmer disposition and lower stress levels benefit the physical body as well as the mental health of a person. The less agitated a senior is, the better their overall health will be.
- Slower Decline of Cognitive Functioning – In a recent study, researchers found that seniors with memory loss who worked on puzzles for 45 minutes two times a week had improved scores on memory tests. These improvements accounted for approximately six to nine months delay in symptoms or decline.
- A Sense of Purpose – feeling a sense of accomplishment can be rare for people with Alzheimer’s. Those tasks they used to do with ease can cause frustration now. A simple project, such as finishing a puzzle, can give them a big boost in pride and sense of purpose.
Although there are many benefits to making jigsaw puzzles, not all puzzles are appropriate. Too many pieces will cause frustration. Small pieces can be difficult for them to pick up. Monochromatic or detailed images may be too difficult to decipher.
Pick a puzzle that might elicit pleasant memories. Place it on a surface where there is plenty of light. A white tablecloth will help the senior distinguish the darker pieces against a light background.
Spend time with your loved ones while they work on the puzzle. Don’t make the puzzle for them, but guide them when they seem to get agitated. The activity will be fun for both of you.