Engaging Minds: How Crosswords and Crafts Can Help Ward Off Dementia

A recent study has brought forth intriguing insights into the potential of lifestyle enrichment activities like crosswords and crafts in reducing the risk of dementia among older adults. This Australian-led research, published in JAMA Network Open, delves deep into the correlation between various leisure activities, social networks, and the onset of dementia.


The study meticulously analyzed data from 10,318 participants aged 70 and above, predominantly white and female, over a span of ten years concluding in 2020. During this period, a small fraction (3%) of the participants developed dementia. The comprehensive research considered 19 different types of activities and social engagements, adjusting for health and education status to delineate the impact of specific activities on dementia risk.

Key Findings

The research uncovered a noteworthy 11% reduction in dementia risk among individuals engaged in adult literacy activities such as writing, using a computer, and attending educational classes. Furthermore, active mental activities like solving crosswords and playing games were associated with a 9% reduced risk. Creative pursuits like painting, drawing, and craftwork, along with reading and watching television, were linked to a 7% reduction in dementia risk.

Cognitive Stimulation and Resilience

The authors of the study posited that the cognitive stimulation derived from these activities could enhance resilience against brain pathologies by fostering neuronal growth, boosting synaptic activity, and optimizing the efficiency of brain networks. Activities that necessitate the processing and storage of new information, such as computer usage and writing, were seen as particularly beneficial in decelerating neurobiological aging and fortifying against dementia.

The Role of Competitive Mental Activities

The study also highlighted the significant role of competitive mental activities, like crosswords and games, in employing a myriad of cognitive domains including memory, visuospatial skills, calculation, and executive function. The interactive and problem-solving nature of these activities triggers extensive word and knowledge networks in the brain, aligning with previous research findings on cognitive stimulation.

Lifestyle Impact and Dementia Prevalence

With over 5 million people in the U.S. living with dementia—a number projected to rise to 14 million by 2060—understanding the impact of lifestyle on dementia risk is paramount. The Alzheimer’s Association underscores the potential of lifestyle modifications in not only reducing Alzheimer’s risk but also mitigating other health issues like heart disease and diabetes.


The study concludes that engagement in a spectrum of activities, notably adult literacy, creative arts, and mental exercises like crosswords, wordle, may serve as a protective shield against dementia in older adults. These findings can significantly inform geriatric care policies and interventions aimed at dementia prevention, offering a beacon of hope for millions grappling with this debilitating condition.


  • The research did not find a link between reduced dementia risk and social activities, interpersonal networks, or external outings.
  • The most common type of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, characterized by a progression from mild memory loss to severe cognitive impairment.

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