Brain Candy

Apps, apps and more apps!  It’s impossible to keep up with all of them.  You can pretty much find an app for anything.  The most popular, of course, are the games.  I think it’s safe to say that most people have heard of Angry Birds by now, whether they have actually played it or not.  In a way, this lead the explosion of the app industry.   Even health and fitness found their places among the games and entertainment programs. You can track your diabetes, monitor your heart rate and even test your brain for early cognitive impairment.

It’s been several years since those involved with Alzheimer’s care and research have used technology and apps to better understand the workings of the brain.  Studies have always showed that stimulating the brain promotes healthy cognitive functioning and can even slow the developement or progress of dementia.  The mobility of tablets, such as iPads, made them accessible for older adults who may struggle with or avoid computers altogether.  A tablet can be carried around and pulled out when the time is right.  Residents and older adults in general are usually less intimidated by a tablet.  So many times, in my efforts to instruct older adults on using computers and the internet, I would hear  “I don’t know anything about these things. I’m afraid I will break it .”  There isn’t that fear with a tablet. Since every move is the same, touching the screen, they are more willing to dive in.  In my opinion, tablets have opened up the world of technology to a generation that would have otherwise missed out.

With the constant development of apps, there are more and more options for older adults to explore.  Of course, there are all of the ones deisgned specificly for memory loss and dementia, but many of the most popular games out there provide the same benefits if not better.  Many of the popular games can be played against friends and family. Imagine the thrill of a grandparent playing their grandchildren in Candy Crush or even Words With Friends.  I was surprised one day when I received an invitation to play Words With Friends from my 8 year old neice.  I wondered how this was going to work out, but soon realized that the joy was waiting to see what words she would come up with.  Granted, I had to scale back, but the interaction alone was worth it.  When we would see each other in person, we instantly had something to talk about.   The experience became even better when we realized that we both played Candy Crush.  She was far and away better at the game than I was.  She was so excited when I asked for her help and she was able to teach me something.  Again, the app was more than a game, it was a bridge between generations and most importantly, a bridge that could be maintained even when both parties were far apart.

The benefits are countless.  Not enough can be said for intergenerational activities, and apps are an easy solution to creating these moments.  As mentioned before, the opportunities are endless.  Consider getting the older adults in your life a tablet, if they don’t have one.  Cost would make them a great “group gift” with several people chipping in.  Have the tablet activated and loaded with some apps before giving it.   Most apps come in a FREE version in addition to the paid versions.  This is great for older adults who may be on a fixed income.  If they don’t like it, they can delete it with no worry of cost.  This is also another opportunity to get the kids involved and have them assist grandma or grandpa in the beginning stages, creating meaningful moments and special memories.

Are you an older adult?  Have you embraced smart devices, such as tablets? If so, what are your favorite apps?  We would love to hear from our readers and find out what they think about this topic or any others in our blog.  Please leave your comments here so we can all share in the experiences.

Natalie Pic

Meet the Author


Natalie has compiled over eighteen years experience providing outstanding care to people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. In addition to being a certified Alzheimer’s and dementia care trainer, McFarland is a licensed continued education instructor for nurses and social workers through the Illinois Department of Professional Regulations. She has also developed several Alzheimer’s research partnerships. Included in those projects were Dr. Virginia Cruz, Ph.D., RN, Associate Professor of SIUE and Dr. George Grossberg, M.D., Medical Director of the Department of Psychiatry and Neurology at Saint Louis University. Natalie is a graduate of Southern Illinois University.