There’s a quiet movement going on in this country, and it doesn’t involve apps, data, or the latest fad. Following the lead of vinyl record albums, coloring books, and traditional board games, jigsaw puzzles are seeing a resurgence in popularity. It’s an opportunity to unplug and give yourself and your family an escape from the information overload that is buzzing through the very fabric of our lives 24/7.
Wrestling yourself away from screens, devices, and even television, can be a nearly impossible task, but it’s vital for our mental and even physical health. A jigsaw puzzle requires your full attention, and therein lies the magic. Everyone from tweens and teens to millennials and over-worked parents to seniors is returning to this quiet pastime of childhood. Call it a retro revolution.
Here are some benefits of puzzling that might surprise you.
- Jigsaw puzzles exercise both the left and right side of your brain at once. Your left brain is logical and works in a linear fashion, while your right brain is creative and intuitive. When you’re doing a jigsaw puzzle, both sides are engaged, according to Sanesco Health, an industry leader in neurotransmitter testing. Think of it as a mental workout that improves your problem-solving skills and attention span. It’s no surprise that Bill Gates admits to being an avid puzzler.
- Jigsaw puzzles improve your short-term memory. Can’t remember what you had for lunch yesterday? Jigsaw puzzles can help with that. Doing a puzzle reinforces connections between brain cells, improves mental speed, and is an especially effective way to improve short-term memory.
- Jigsaw puzzles improve your visual-spatial reasoning. When you do a jigsaw puzzle, you need to look at individual pieces and figure out where they’ll fit into the big picture. If you do it regularly, you’ll improve visual-spatial reasoning, which helps with driving a car, packing, using a map, learning and following dance moves, and a whole host of other things.
- Jigsaw puzzles are a great meditation tool and stress reliever. Focusing on one image for a long period of time, without extraneous thoughts entering your mind, is in itself meditation. By doing a jigsaw puzzle, you’re getting the same benefits as if you meditated. The stress of everyday life evaporates and is replaced by a sense of peace and tranquility that lowers your blood pressure and heart rate.
- Jigsaw puzzles are a great way to connect with family. Starting a jigsaw puzzle and keeping it on a table in your living room or kitchen is an invitation for the whole family to participate whenever they have a few minutes to sit down and focus. It’s a tactic that parents of teens can use for starting a conversation while working toward a shared goal.
- Conversely, jigsaw puzzles are great for some needed alone time.
- Puzzling is perfect for people who want a quiet, solo break from the bustle and unrelenting stimulus of today’s digital lifestyle.
Studies show that people who do jigsaw and crossword puzzles have longer life spans with less chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease, memory loss, or dementia. Puzzling stimulates the brain and actually wards off the plaque that is the marker of Alzheimer’s, according to a recent study published in the Archives of Neurology. The study compared brain scans of 75-year-olds to 25-year-olds. The elderly people who did puzzles regularly had brain scans comparable to the 25-year-olds.
If you are choosing a jigsaw puzzle for a loved one with Alzheimer’s or other form of dementia, be sure to choose the right kind of puzzle.
- Stay away from children’s puzzles with large pieces that are too easy to complete. Also, avoid puzzles that are complex or only include a few colors. Find a puzzle that’s challenging but not impossible.
- Simple puzzles are appropriate for late-stage dementia. Puzzles made specifically for people with Alzheimer’s are available and include low piece counts and adult-appropriate images.
- If your loved one has arthritis or has trouble picking up small pieces, take this into consideration when selecting a puzzle.
- Pick a puzzle that has a pleasant picture, or may evoke memories for your loved one.
- Set up the puzzle station in a place that has plenty of light and where your loved one can sit comfortably and safely
- Place a white tablecloth over the area where you intend to work on the puzzle. The added contrast of the tablecloth will help them distinguish the puzzle pieces.
Doing jigsaw puzzles is good for your mind, body, and spirit. So, on your next lazy Sunday (or, better yet, crazed Monday), unplug, put your phone on “Do Not Disturb,” and get swept away by a puzzle.
Ravensburger, a company that has been making high-quality, premium jigsaw puzzles for over 135 years, recently partnered with Target to offer a new line of 500- and 1,000-piece puzzles, because anyone and everyone can benefit from puzzling. (HINT: Start with the 500-piece puzzle. They’re designed to strike the perfect balance of challenge and solvability.)
South Mountain Memory Care focuses on high-quality, personalized care. The brand-new building is a stand-alone memory care community, meaning that the entire building, staff, and programs are designed to cater to residents with cognitive issues. To ensure person-centered care and attention, we have accommodations for up to 28 residents. The building is divided into two neighborhoods (wings), each offering 10 private suites and 2 semi-private suites.
South Mountain Memory Care is located in the Allentown suburb of Emmaus, Pennsylvania, and it is easily accessible from the Lehigh Valley, New Jersey, and Philadelphia. For more information, go to http://www.southmountainmemorycare.com/