For seniors, solving crossword puzzles can fortify memory and ability to focus, according to studies. Besides stimulating your senior brain, crosswords and other word puzzles can boost your vocabulary and be a great way to start a conversation.

Here are good reasons for you or any senior you know to sit down and work on those puzzles:

  • Crosswords test your memory. Any clue in a crossword is going to prompt you to try remembering names, places, events, foreign words, and other items that you perhaps haven’t thought about in years.

    In addition, working crosswords on a regular basis can give your memory a boost a couple of ways:

    • The more puzzles you work, the more you’ll want to rely on your own knowledge base for answers (as opposed to using outside resources).

    • Puzzle constructors have certain words that they work into puzzles on a regular basis. The more of these words you commit to memory, the easier working crosswords becomes.

  • Crosswords help hone your self-discipline. Most crossword puzzles require at least an hour to solve. When you tackle a crossword, you’re taking on a mental commitment, and succeeding requires self-discipline. If you’re going to complete a crossword grid, you have to develop the discipline to back up, re-read clues, consider what resources you may want to consult, and chip away at the empty spaces. Exercising this type of self-discipline helps you keep your thoughts focused and sharp.

  • Crosswords encourage you explore. Don’t hesitate to use outside resources to help solve crossword clues — if you get stuck on a clue, explore your options for finding the answer! Ask someone else for help (a great idea), go to a local library, or check for the answer in a book or on a Web site. Exploring helps to keep you from feeling isolated, and it stimulates your senses, and your mind.

  • *Crosswords keep you curious. Curiosity isn’t just for children, though carrying adult responsibilities often squeezes the life out of curiosity. But working crosswords can inspire you to be more curious. You may find that one little clue with a surprising solution leaves you wanting to know more about why that answer is correct. Feel free to put your puzzle on hold and find out more, right then and there. Your brain will benefit from it.

In order for crosswords to help keep your brain stimulated, you need to sit down and work on solving them regularly! After all, you can’t get your body fit by working out three hours in a row and then ignoring your health altogether for two weeks. You benefit much more from working out consistently for shorter amounts of time.

Your goal should be to make time for a crossword puzzle at least several days a week, if not every day. If you can’t devote time to working a crossword puzzle every day, no problem. But don’t let a month go by between mental workouts!