Jigsaw Puzzles as a Pastime or Hobby

By Richard Stoller

Today jigsaw puzzles are a familiar product on the retailer's shelf. Originally invented by the London mapmaker, John Spilsbury in the mid 18th century they were developed as an aid to teach geography. Two hundred and fifty years later, jigsaw puzzles are still in the marketplace thanks to their enduring appeal to all age groups.

Almost all jigsaw puzzles are now made of cardboard but some manufacturers still acknowledge those early days and make a few titles (especially for children) from wooden boards. Images are printed onto the surface rather than hand painted as in Spilsbury's day. Originally employed as an educational device, world maps would decorate the board, be cut up using a jigsaw into the various countries for instructive assembly by school going youngsters.

Color and shape are the most obvious clues to where a piece goes into the puzzle. This requires both manual dexterity as well as the ability to recognize complementary shapes and surrounding colors. For those whose cognitive powers are not as acute as they once were, it is obvious that jigsaw puzzles are a benefit to hand eye coordination as well as a mental exercise.

Exercise and diet as well as mental stimulation have recently been documented as the best methods to avoid the onset of dementia. Pastimes such as reading, mind teasers such as Sudoku or crosswords come to mind as beneficial. Card games have the added benefit of socialization as well as deductive reasoning. Essentially any form of gentle therapy that is fun is to be encouraged.

Nevertheless it is the unexpected benefit of assembling a jigsaw puzzle that carries unique observational, cognition and motor skills making the pastime distinct. Puzzle manufacturers have seen the median age of the puzzle consumer advancing and (not through any act of altruism) have been developing more puzzles with extra large pieces. Typically such a puzzle will have 500 pieces but will have the same dimensions as a regular 1000 piece puzzle. The images tend to be brightly colored with well defined sections.

The four identifiable phases of memory are learning, consolidation, storage and recall. Recall is the key to determining the viability and/or deterioration of the other three stages. If, under competitive circumstances, a healthy puzzle hobbyist can assemble a 1000 piece puzzle in about an hour then there is reason to believe that a senior will benefit by using the skills of learning and consolidation to a relative degree with an overall benefit to recall skills.

It has been said the human brain is the most complex thing in the universe. Chemical studies and subsequent pharmacological discoveries as well as gene therapies hold much promise and even current benefits. Mild therapies such as puzzles are less intrusive and might mitigate the results of memory loss in an aging population.

We do not count our limbs or physical parts of our bodies as ourselves. The mind though is where we as individuals reside; the loss of which presents the greatest fear. Unassuming exercises such as jigsaw puzzles may help prolong a healthy mind and enhance the pleasure of life.

Mental challenges such as jigsaw puzzles help prolong a sharp mind and increase the pleasure of life. Reawaken once sharp skills by easy Mental challenges using 1000 piece jigsaw puzzles.

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