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Keeping your mind stimulated

Games and puzzles can be good for you. They can be fun and can:

  • Improve your memory;
  • Increase your concentration;
  • Help you relax; and
  • Stimulate your imagination.

Playing chess

Chess, a game that probably goes back to the 7th century, is stimulating and exciting whether played between two grandmasters or between yourself and a virtual opponent.

Playing chess on a computer means you don’t have to wait for someone to play with. It's also easy to use.

Chess comes with Apple and Windows computers. The style of the pieces and the level of difficulty can be varied to make the games more interesting. There are various other computer versions which include Houdini, Komodo and Fritz.

For more information on using computers (or shopping for the right kind of technology), visit our Tech talk page.


The Guardian newspaper digital edition has a large section on crosswords that are free to use and range from the quick and easy to the cryptic and genius. The great thing is that if you get stuck, there is a tab (reveal this) you can press to give you the answer to the clue.

The Times and The Daily Telegraph have crosswords in their digital editions, but you have to subscribe to the newspapers to gain access to the crosswords and other online games.

Nintendo Wii and Nintendo DS

Nintendo, the computer games manufacturer, makes two versions that you may find useful and fun to use.

Nintendo Wii can provide good exercise, increase mental stimulation, improve hand-eye coordination and increase social interaction. There are only a few buttons to master, and many of the games can be played by just moving your arms. There are three popular games on the Nintendo Wii:

  1. Wii Sports Resorts: This helps to get you up and move and includes golf, bowling and tennis.
  2. Wii Fit Plus: This comes with a Balance Board to encourage you to lean left and right in certain games.
  3. Big Brain Academy, Wii Degree: This includes a range of mini-games that can improve your mental stimulation.

Nintendo DS comes with the following:

  1. Clubhouse Games: These include draughts, backgammon, chess and cards.
  2. My Coach: This teaches languages in an easy to use format—from the first steps to the most advanced parts of speech and pronunciation.
  3. Brain Age and Brain Age 2: This contains many different mini-games to help keep your brain sharp, improve your memory and help with hand-eye coordination.


Sudoku (meaning single number) is a puzzle where the objective is to fill a 9 x 9 grid so that each column and each row and each of the nine 3 x 3 sub-grids that compose the grid contains all of the digits 1 to 9. The puzzle begins with a partially completed grid, so it's up to you to fill in the rest of it.

Family history

Very early on in the Bible, all of the offspring of Adam—over many generations—are listed. Clearly, researching family history is a Jewish tradition! Thanks to modern technology, there are a number of websites out there that can make the research fun.

Ancestry has a section called family tree which will help you put the pieces of your family puzzle together and connect your past to your future. Ancestry has census records that go back as far as 1841 and may help you find out where your relatives were living at the time of the census, and what countries and sometimes what towns they came from. One of the most exciting of all the censuses is the one from 1911, as the information contained there is the most detailed.

Ancestry contains a wide variety of other records, including birth, marriage and military. This may help you find out where your relatives were serving in the First and Second World Wars. Ancestry also has passenger lists going back as far as 1810, with details for people arriving in England and the UK.

Ancestry is very user-friendly and is great fun to use. Once you have logged into the website, one of the most difficult things you may find is tearing yourself away from it. 

Other helpful websites include:


Reading can be good for you whether it’s reading books, newspapers or magazines.

  • It can help keep your brain sharp.
  • It can help you relax.
  • It can improve your memory.
  • It can improve your concentration.

If you are looking for a particular book or for a particular range of books, a librarian at your local library will be able to help you.

Barnet libraries have a free digital library service for ebooks, audiobooks and digital magazines. Barnet's collection includes a range of online resources in the 24/7 reference library, which covers art, biographies, dictionaries and encyclopaedias. Barnet libraries also provide a home library service if you are unable to visit your local library. Once you have registered, you will receive a visit every four weeks with a selection of titles based on your preferences.

Finally, for more ideas on keeping your mind stimulated, visit our page on Classes, clubs and continuing education.

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