Want to keep your mind active? Jigsaws can help!
Jigsaws can help keep the mind active and with Dementia Awareness Week coming up soon, you might like to know more about it!
Research has shown that keeping the mind active – whether through playing word games, using colouring books, discussing current affairs or sharing memories with relatives and friends – can help to delay or even prevent dementia.
And in Banbury, Oxfordshire, a popular social club is encouraging people of all ages to exercise their brains through jigsaw puzzles.
Sue Riches, founder of the Piece Together group, explains: “Any social interaction or brain stimulation as you get older is important. Keeping as active as possible – both mentally and socially, as well as physically – can boost memory and self-esteem, and help to avoid depression.
“Jigsaws can be ideal for that. For people with short-term memory problems, who might once have taken their stimulation from reading, books can become too complicated as they get older as they struggle to remember what they have already read. But a jigsaw is something that you can come back to and quite literally pick up the pieces from where you left off.”
It was while caring for her mother that Sue first realised the therapeutic qualities of a jigsaw: “My 94-year-old mum always has a puzzle on the go. Not only does it give her something to do, it also forms a conversation piece with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren and with the carers who go in to see her daily.”
A study published by the American Academy of Neurology showed that people who participated in frequent mentally stimulating activities both early and late in life had a slower rate of decline in memory compared to those who didn’t pursue such activities across their lifetime. The study, carried out by the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, found that the rate of decline was reduced by 32 percent in people with frequent mental activity in late life.
And since founding Piece Together two years ago, Sue has seen membership of the group grow to more than 100, a diverse group of all ages who meet each month for fun and social puzzling, and can borrow jigsaws and other puzzles to take away. “It’s basically a jigsaw library with tea and cakes,” says Sue. “We always have a couple of puzzles on the go at the meetings, but some members just come along to swap their puzzles and to have a chat.”
The puzzles have whimsical shaped pieces which each match the theme of the jigsaw – and the company offers the same picture with different numbers of wooden pieces, to suit the level of challenge which the puzzler would like to tackle. Their 100-piece puzzles have slightly larger wooden pieces, which are ideal for those whose motor skills may be in decline. The company is donating 10% off all their sales during Dementia Action Week to The Alzheimer’s Society.
“Jigsaws are no longer just a picture of a country cottage or fishing boats bobbing on a pretty harbour. There are so many topics of interest – and there’s a vast range of sizes and in the number of pieces, so you can always find something which is perfect for your interests and the level of challenge that you want to take on.” Wentworth will even make bespoke puzzles featuring family images or old black-and-white pictures, which can help an older person to stay in touch with these very personal memories.
The current popularity of jigsaws is such that from March 2017 they were added to the UK’s official Consumer Price Index for the first time. “It’s an activity that appeals to all ages,” says Sue. “We have members aged from their 20s to their 90s and it can be a really enjoyable inter-generational activity which people of all ages can enjoy together. And it’s great for getting younger people away from their computer screens and mobile phones!”
“By doing a puzzle the person is completely involved in the activity, and time just flies. Mindfulness is all about being in the moment, rather than worrying about the future or fretting about the past.
“And what a great sense of achievement you get, when you put in the final piece!”
Wentworth Wooden Puzzles manufactures jigsaw puzzles with whimsical shaped pieces reflecting the theme of the image portrayed on the puzzle. www.wentworthpuzzles.
Rush University Medical Center press release into the importance of exercising the brain: www.rush.edu/news/
Dementia Action Week: www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-