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Staying Sharp

"Senior Smart Puzzles"

By Lindy McClean,
Illustrated by James Coultier
(BookSurge Publishing, $10.99)
Available through
Amazon. com

"Senior Smart Puzzles is the kind of book that benefits the aging brain. It has triggered memories and initiated conversations between caregivers and people with memory impairment." - Veronica Spalding, activities director at the Curry Good Samaritan Center Brookings, Oregon


A 48-page paperback workbook, featuring vintage illustrations, offers brainteasers, or “strengtheners,” which include mazes, hidden objects in pictures, and same/different puzzles, where the participant searches for differences between pictures, as well as matching like items. (Solutions are in the back of the book.) Simple to solve, but designed for the Super Seniors!


Story by Sharon Letts / The Times-Standard Article

As a massage therapist, Lindy McClean is used to helping people feel better. "Eighty percent of my clients are elderly," McClean said. "I like to spend time with them after the massage -- watching television isn't always that stimulating and games like Sudoku can be too difficult. So, I brought children's activity books to do with them."

Though her massage clients enjoyed doing the activities in the books, McClean, who was born and raised in Ferndale but now lives in Oregon, said they were somewhat insulted by the pictures.

"The pictures in the children's books weren't appropriate to their age," she said. "I needed to find books that were easy enough for them to do, with the right level of difficulty to challenge them, but with pictures they could relate to."

McClean said she couldn't find any workbooks that fit what she was looking for and decided to make her own. She said creating the puzzles wasn't a problem, but she wasn't an artist.

"I love chocolate," McClean said, "and I was eating this chocolate bar, Chocolate Euphoria. It's made locally up here in Eugene, and has really great illustrations on the wrapper, and I thought that the artist would be perfect for my book."

The artist, James Cloutier, understood the concept right away, McClean said.

"Senior Smart Puzzles" is the culmination of McClean's concepts with Cloutier's illustrations. The 40-page paperback workbook offers brainteasers, or "strengtheners," which include mazes, hidden objects in pictures, and same/different puzzles, where the participant searches for differences between pictures, as well as matching like items. The solutions are in the back of the book.

Several studies by the National Institute on Aging (www.nia. nih.gov) support the value of mentally stimulating activities. McClean said her clients and other seniors she's shared the book with enjoy it on many levels.

"The puzzles don't have to be complicated to stimulate the brain," McClean said.

"In addition to working on the puzzles, they'd say 'Oh, hats. I used to have a hat like that.' It's also a catalyst for conversation."

Of the many reviews the book has garnered from those who work with seniors, Veronica Spalding, activities director at the Curry Good Samaritan Center in McClean's hometown of Brookings, Ore., said, "Senior Smart Puzzles is the kind of book that benefits the aging brain. It has triggered memories and initiated conversations between caregivers and people with memory impairment."

Cloutier's illustrations depict life in the 1940s and '50s, and McClean said seniors can relate to them.

"One man who was working on the book named the model of each car in the picture,” she said. "The pictures had to be authentic."

Seven seniors who reside at Timber Ridge in Eureka recently sat down in the activities room to try their hand at the puzzle book.

While Dot Gaby, 97, had some difficulty with some of the puzzles and mazes, she enjoyed the puzzles where the reader has to find the differences between pictures.

"There's nothing left upstairs. I can't think! I got that one though," she said, laughing, as she pointed to a puzzle success.

Ninety year-old Louise Peterson's memory is sharp and she said she enjoyed working on the puzzles.

"It's simple, and big enough for my eyes to see it," Peterson said. "I used to play word puzzles. This is fun."

The mazes intrigued Juanita Horel-Hill, 86, but some of the other puzzles were a bit much for her.

"I know what I can and can't do, and I can't do that one," Horel-Hill said, pointing to a tricky "Find the Differences" puzzle.

Helen Buck is 88 years old and she found the book to be very interesting. "I thought it was fun to do," Buck said. "It's a challenge."

Elizabeth Hoag also said she enjoyed the book. "It's intriguing," Hoag said. "You definitely need concentration when you first start working on them, but it's wonderfully laid out."

Timber Ridge Activities Director Margie Kelly enjoyed watching the seniors work on the puzzles.

"Just watch them work on them," she said. "You can really see the interest. They're really focused on them. This is the first time we've had anything like this here. I think it's great. It will help keep their minds sharp."

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"Senior Smart Puzzles” (BookSurge Publishing, $10.99) is available through McClean's Web site, www.seniorsmartpuzzles.com, or through local bookstores or at Amazon. com.