An older man playing Staying Sharp games from on an iPhone as he smiles

Staying Sharp: 5 Brain Games to Keep Your Mind Sharp as You Age

As we age, our brains and bodies become less efficient, especially if we don’t take care of ourselves. Fortunately, there are things we can do to slow the process down or even reverse it! Staying Sharp is AARP’s program to help seniors maintain brain health through games and other activities. These brain games are easy to play on your computer or smartphone, and they have been scientifically proven to improve memory, concentration, reaction time, and problem-solving skills in older adults as well as people with cognitive disorders like ADHD and dementia.

Staying Sharp home page by
Staying Sharp Home Screen (aarp,org)

What is Staying Sharp by AARP?

Staying Sharp is an interactive program designed by AARP to help people in their 50s and older stay sharper as they age, included with your AARP subscription. This site provides fun activities, challenges, recipes, and games that can be played anytime, anywhere—there’s no need for special equipment.

What makes Staying Sharp different from other brain-training programs is that it combines lessons and applications, and can be used on a variety of devices– including smart speakers like Amazon Echo, and Oculus. There’s even a brain health assessment for a small charge (14 or 9,000 AARP Rewards Points), that offers personalized recommendations on building and maintaining your brain health.

What are the best Staying Sharp games on AARP?

AARP provides a suite of Staying Sharp activities, games and exercises on their website that you can use to sharpen your mind, and Sequence Square is a fun way to challenge your brain to think in other ways.

Their memory games, like Pattern Match and Block Breaker, are fun too, making your brain quickly associate patterns to achieve a high score. Unfortunately, some of the sections of the Staying Sharp site are a bit buggy, and neither Mental Math nor Split Words Arcade would launch, despite several tries.

There are also other fun games on AARP’s website that help keep your brain sharp, even if they’re not tagged as Staying Sharp games, such as the crossword and sudoku games. Staying Sharp Pattern Match game
Staying Sharp Pattern Match Game (

How can memory games help my brain?

Memory games and word games can be more than just fun. Especially for adults aged 50+, a large study in England found that word games demonstrated consistently better short-term recall, reasoning, and attentiveness than adults who didn’t engage in brain games.

Particularly for adults who are vulnerable to dementia and Alzheimer’s, brain games and memory games can improve functionality and memory. Scientists believe that engaging in games that keep the mind active can improve brain health and slow the onset of dementia.

What are Staying Sharp Brain Challenges?

Staying Sharp has a variety of learning objectives, chunked into short manageable sections. Each Brain Challenge includes a pretest, lessons, games to practice what you’ve learned, and then a post-test. The Brain Challenge shows you how your score has improved during the challenge, and you can add sections to your personalized Staying Sharp plan.

How does the Staying Sharp Brain Assessment work?

The Staying Sharp Brain Assessment measures different areas of brain function, including memory, mental agility and creativity. The assessment takes about 40 minutes. Once you finish, your results will be available in AARP’s Staying Sharp Toolkit. There is a cost for the assessment, which is $14 one time (or 9,000 AARP Rewards Points), but then you can retake the Brain Assessment every 90 days for no additional charge.

The first section of the Staying Sharp Brain Assessment includes five, fast-paced assessment tests:

  • Choice Reaction Time Speed – Measures processing speed (how your brain reacts to new information)
  • Memory Recognition – Measures recognition memory (how your brain retrieves information)
  • Continuous Performance – Measures sustained attention (how your brain focuses on what’s important in the moment)
  • Digit Span – Measures working memory (how your brain holds onto information in the moment)
  • Switching Attention – Measures cognitive flexibility (how flexible your brain is as it adapts to new information)

Once you’ve completed this section of the assessment, the Staying Sharp Brain Assessment will ask you a number of questions about your health and lifestyle, to complete your overall Brain Health score and provide customized recommendations within the Staying Sharp platform.

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Erin McCune