The Games We Play: Why Play Matters for Seniors
We all love games.
Whether as a centerpiece for social
interaction, a form of entertainment,
a way to challenge the mind, or a means
of passing the time, games play small
but notable roles in many of our lives.
The fun and value of games does not
diminish as we get older. On the contrary,
for seniors who might not be going to
work anymore, or who may not have as many
social interactions as they once did,
games can be a vital way to keep the brain
sharp and to add socialization and leisure
back into the routine.
One of the best things about games is
the sheer variety of options that are
available. They can be played alone
or in groups. They can demand logic
and strategy or rest mostly on luck.
They can be quick and breezy or
lengthy and complex. This variety
adds greater value to games for
seniors, because it’s possible to
find a game to suit virtually any
level of cognitive or physical ability.
For seniors with dementia or other
types of cognitive impairment, choose
games that they have learned and played
in the past. Someone who struggles
with memory issues can often recall
the strategies and muscle memory of
games they used to play. It is absolutely
possible for a senior to pick up a card
game they haven’t played in years and win.
Returning to our favorite games, it seems,
is a lot like riding a bike.
So what are the best games to
play with seniors? The answer depends
on the person and on the situation.
Seniors looking for enjoyable games to
play alone often love solitaire or
sudoku—puzzle-like challenges that require
problem solving. If you are looking for
games to play in a group setting, the
actual game often matters less than the
emotional benefit that seniors get from
playing with other people. Some good
options might include war, hearts,
euchre, or Uno.
Ultimately, the best bet is to ask a
senior which games they enjoy or
used to play frequently. Again, it
can be very helpful for the senior
to have that existing familiarity
and skill with a game, even if it
is latent. If you don’t know how
to play the game in question, ask
the senior to teach you! The
process of explaining the rules
behind a game can be a useful
experience both mentally and socially.