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.