Life & Lifestyle

Strategic Games to Keep Minds Sharp and Friendships Strong at 50+

Concerns about memory and mental sharpness often arise as we age, but it doesn’t mean we must sit back and accept it! There are plenty of ways to cultivate strong focus and memory, and playing strategic games is just one of those ways!

These games challenge your brain and benefit your cognitive health and social connections. Let’s explore how strategic games can keep your mind sharp and your friendships strong in your 50s.

Mental Benefits of Strategic Games

Our brain is like a muscle – the more we work it, the stronger it gets. Strategic games provide a challenging mental workout that can benefit several cognitive functions.

Memory and Attention:

Strategic games exercise working memory, an area of the brain that holds information for short-term use. As we age, working memory can naturally decline. Fortunately, strategic games can prevent this. Here’s how:

  • Multitasking Mentality: Games often require you to juggle multiple things simultaneously – remembering complex rules, tracking the game board, and anticipating your opponent’s moves. This constant mental juggling act strengthens the neural pathways in working memory, making it easier to focus and retain information daily.
  • Active Recall: Unlike rote memorization, strategic games require active recall of information. You need to remember past plays, analyze potential moves, and adapt your strategy on the fly. This activity strengthens memory pathways and improves your ability to access information quickly.
  • Visuospatial Skills: Many strategic games involve visual components like a game board or cards. Regularly engaging these visuospatial skills can improve your working memory by creating stronger memory associations between visual cues and the information they represent.
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Chess is an excellent strategic game. Add a friend for an extra challenge.

Critical Thinking

Strategic games aren’t just about winning—they’re about outsmarting your opponent. This constant challenge translates into sharper problem-solving skills in your everyday life.

Here’s why:

  • Decision-making muscle: Strategic games force you to analyze situations, weigh options, and make calculated decisions under pressure, which strengthens your decision-making muscle and helps you approach real-world challenges more analytically and logically.
  • Cognitive flexibility: Games often require adjusting your strategy based on unforeseen circumstances. This mental flexibility helps you think on your feet and solve problems creatively, even in unexpected situations.

Lifelong Learning:

The brain thrives on challenges and new experiences. Thanks to strategy games’ ever-evolving nature, your brain constantly learns and adapts to new situations. This ongoing learning process helps build cognitive resilience.

Studies have shown that engaging in mentally stimulating activities can:

  • Delay the onset of age-related cognitive decline.
  • Improve cognitive flexibility.
  • Promote neuroplasticity.
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Schedule family game nights.

Social Benefits of Strategic Games

Social connections become even more critical for our well-being in our 50s. Strategic games offer a fantastic opportunity to keep your mind sharp and nurture and strengthen your social bonds.

  1. Combating loneliness: Feeling alone or disconnected can be a real challenge in our 50s. Busy schedules, changes in family dynamics, and even retirement can create a sense of isolation among older adults. These games offer a powerful way to overcome loneliness by providing a shared activity that fosters a sense of community and belonging.
  2. Staying connected: Need a reason to get together with friends or family regularly? Strategic games offer the perfect excuse! Schedule family game nights, visit a local board game bar or join online communities and forums about games you’re interested in. These regular interactions keep the lines of communication open and strengthen those critical social bonds.

Improving Communication and Collaboration

Depending on the type of game you choose, strategic games can be a fantastic way to hone essential social skills like negotiation, communication, and teamwork.

  • Negotiation: Games like Settlers of Catan or Ticket to Ride require you to negotiate trades and deals with your opponents. This develops your negotiation skills, allowing you to advocate for yourself better in other areas of life.
  • Communication: Strategic games often involve clear communication of plans and strategies, which helps improve communication skills and allows you to express yourself more effectively in all social situations.
  • Teamwork: Cooperative games like Pandemic or Hanabi require players to work together towards a common goal that strengthens your teamwork skills and teaches you how to collaborate effectively with others.
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Having fun on game night.

Getting Started with Strategic Games in Your 50s and Beyond

Are you ready to embrace the mental and social benefits of strategic games? Here are a few tips to help you start:

Find your perfect match:

There is a vast world of strategic games available. Choose ones that fit your tastes and preferences to maximize your gaming experience!

  • Think About Your Interests: Do you enjoy historical settings, fantasy worlds, or logic puzzles? Choosing a game with an appealing theme will make learning more enjoyable.
  • Consider Your Skill Level: Are you a complete beginner, or do you have some experience with these types of games? Start with ones that have easy-to-learn rules but offer strategic depth as you progress.

Explore Different Options:

Strategy games come in various forms, including board games, card games, and online games. Check out online resources for recommendations and reviews, watch gameplay videos, and read game guides to find the perfect match.

Make it fun and social.

The atmosphere is essential for any game night. Create a fun and social environment for your friends and family with these tips:

    • Set the mood: Dim the lights, add appealing background music, and create a comfortable and inviting space for your game night.
    • Prepare delicious snacks: Offer homemade finger foods, fresh fruit, or even a platter of your favorite handmade chocolates.
    •  Embrace the social aspect: Focus on having fun and connecting with fellow players. Laughter, friendly competition, and conversation are all part of the game night experience.

Final Thoughts

Strategic games offer a winning combination at 50+ — a mental workout that keeps your mind sharp and a social experience that strengthens your connections with friends and family. So, dust off that old chessboard, gather your friends, and explore the wonderful world of strategic gaming. You might be surprised at how much fun you have!


Katie Pierce

Katie Pierce is a teacher-slash-writer who loves telling stories, whether to adults in front of a computer screen or a bunch of hyperactive 4-year-olds. Writing keeps her sane (most of the time) and allows her to enjoy some quiet time in the evening before she walks into a room of kids (all of whom she loves dearly) the following morning.

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