Sudoku, which has gained in popularity in the past dozen or so years, actually originates long before that, and not from where you might expect.
Although “sudoku” is a Japanese word (meaning “digit single”), it got that name only around 1986. Variations of the puzzle first appeared in the 19th century, then reappeared again in 2004 in The Times of London, where it enjoyed a renaissance as a fun brain game.
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Find out more about how to play sudoku for beginners, why it’s a great game for seniors, some tips for playing it, and more you should know.
Why Sudoku Puzzles Are Good for Seniors
Sudoku is a memory-training activity. Like chess, it encourages you to think a few steps ahead to your next move, which is a good exercise for the brain.
When people over 50 engage in thought games like sudoku and crossword puzzles, their brains function better, according to a study in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. In fact, study participants who worked such puzzles more than once a day had superior cognitive performance in key areas, such as reasoning, attention and memory.
Here are four areas in which sudoku can help seniors:
- Concentration – Sudoku makes you think critically, which requires concentration. Since it requires careful thought, you will zero in on what you’re doing.
- Learning – As you work more puzzles, your speed will increase, which indicates that you’re learning more about the game. The brain enjoys learning, so this may help with other tasks.
- Memory – Sudoku is all about memory, keeping track of numbers and their location. As you work these puzzles, it will help you sharpen your memory.
- Relaxation – Taking even 10 minutes to tackle a sudoku puzzle helps pull you away from the other concerns of the day. A short break combined with brain work can help with stress.
5 Best Tips for Playing Sudoku
The rules for sudoku are simple. A 9×9 square must be filled in with numbers from 1-9 with no repeated numbers in each line, horizontally or vertically. To challenge you more, there are 3×3 squares marked out in the grid, and each of these squares can’t have any repeat numbers either.
The puzzles will help you get started by providing some correct numbers – the fewer numbers provided, the more difficult the puzzle.
Here are a few tips that can help beginners solve sudoku puzzles:
1. Look for the Easy Solutions
Many puzzles will leave one or two blanks either in a line or in a box. A line might be missing a 5 and a 6, but a box along that line will already have a 6 in it, so you know this blank must be a 5, and the other blank must be the 6. The same may be the case for one or two missing numbers in the smaller boxes. Filling these blanks will get you on your way to a solution.
2. Seek the Missing Numbers
As you fill in the easy solutions, you may start to find other missing numbers that are easy to place. In the above example, the box now has a 5, and that may help you solve that 3×3 area, or might help you solve the lines that cross that area.
3. Keep Scanning the Entire Puzzle
If you get stuck, don’t concentrate too hard on one part of the grid. Let your eye scan the puzzle to find another place on the grid with new possibilities. You may find another quick solution.
4. Constantly Re-Evaluate the Grid
Whenever you place a new number, see if that opens up a new row or box. It might narrow down the possibilities or make another number obvious. If you keep asking yourself which numbers you’re missing in a line or grid, you might find it more quickly.
5. Be Patient and Enjoy the Hunt
Remember that although you want to finish a puzzle, the point is to enjoy the challenge and work your brain as you relax. If you find yourself getting frustrated, walk away. Let your mind clear and try again later. The most important thing is to have fun.
Where To Find Sudoku Games
There are many books with sudoku puzzles available at your neighborhood bookstore or at the supermarket. You can also order these books through sites like Amazon.
There are three other types of sudoku games: online playables, printables and phone or tablet apps.
There are a number of sites online that will offer playable, easy sudoku puzzles for seniors. Here are a few:
- AARP – This site for seniors offers several different sudoku games, along with other playable online games like solitaire, arcade games and word games
- Seniors Guide – This site has timed puzzles available, with new ones daily. The puzzles are also printable.
- Seniors Online VIctoria – A website of the government of Victoria, Australia, offers puzzles in Easy, Mild, Hard and Difficult levels.
- Sudoku.com – This site is from Easybrain, a developer of scores of game apps available for download to a phone or tablet.
- WebSudoku – This no-frills site offers a new puzzle each day. These are also printable.
If you can’t have your tablet or laptop with you all the time or your phone screen is too small, or if you just feel more comfortable with paper and pencil, these sites offer free printable sudoku puzzles for seniors.
- Memory Improvement Tips – This site says it has 100 free sudoku puzzles of various difficulty ready to print out.
- Puzzles.ca – This Canadian site offers dozens of printable sudoku puzzles. More are added periodically.
- Reader’s Digest – This magazine site offers 20 puzzles to print out and try.
- Seniors Guide – These online puzzles are also printable so you can take them with you.
- WebSudoku – This site lets you print out new puzzles each day.
Phone or Tablet Apps
Downloading sudoku apps to your phone or tablet can make puzzle solving easier. These apps usually will offer hints or tell you whether your guess is correct so you don’t get off track.
- Sudoku by Brainium Studios – This app offers five levels of difficulty. Available for Android or Apple.
- Web Sudoku – This developer offers different levels for iPad or Android.
- Sudoku by Beetles Studio – This developer has sudoku apps for Android or Apple devices.
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