Benefits of Board Gaming for Seniors

by Jan 30, 2020Olaf's Corner1 comment

One of the most wonderful aspects of board games is timelessness…

For many of us, playing board games with friends or family is at the center of some of our fondest childhood memories. However, this doesn’t mean the appeal of board games is limited to the young. There are plenty of games available that can be enjoyed by people of any age; from pre-schoolers all the way to seniors. No matter how old you are, games can be used to connect with those around you in an entertaining and meaningful way.

While the fun we experience during gameplay is its own justification, there are plenty of additional reasons to make gaming a regular pastime – especially for seniors.

Encourages Social Interaction

First and foremost, games offer entertainment. After all, games are meant to be fun and offer an enjoyable way to pass the time. However, since they require the participation of other people, games indirectly encourage social interaction. They can provide a vehicle for seniors to spend time with the people they love. Getting together with friends, children and grandchildren can help alleviate feelings of isolation, loneliness and depression, which are common among the elderly population. Gathering over a game is a great way to interact with others and can lead to meaningful conversations. Then again, it’s also true that simply playing a quiet game with people we care about can be enough to spark joy and contentment.

Of course, these benefits don’t flow just one way. Over the last few years, my wife and I have enjoyed a standing date playing cards with her grandparents. During the course of friendly competition, they have gifted me with stories and family history and shown me more of who they are. I’ve had the opportunity to learn about them in a deeper, more meaningful way than casual small talk could have provided. To this day I have never won a game, but I have always left the table with something more valuable.

Reduces Stress

The old adage that ‘laughter is the best medicine’ is especially true for seniors. Playing a fun game can release endorphins and relax the mind and the body, which can result in lower blood pressure and even a stronger immune system. It can also benefit people who struggle with anxiety as it offers a distraction from their daily worries. As a regular practice, gameplay can be a powerful tool in reducing stress and maintaining a sense of calm and focus.

Stimulates the Mind

Memory loss is a concern for many people as they enter older age. Board or card games can combat memory loss by enhancing cognitive skills. Working with numbers, letters, shapes and words stimulates the brain by actively challenging it. In short, playing games can help seniors stay sharp. Some studies have even shown that this type of activity can help inhibit the onset of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Increases Dexterity

Sometimes even the simplest tasks can become more challenging as people get older. As we age, fine motor control can require more and more focus. Moving game pieces or holding and shuffling cards can be a great way to exercise and strengthen one’s coordination; all in the context of a fun and relaxing activity. There are even games that are specifically designed around the dexterity component. In a game like ‘Jenga’ for example, fine motor control is what the entire game is about.

Finding the Right Game

Finding the right game for an aging adult can be tricky. Obviously, there are many beloved games, such as Scrabble, Rummy, Backgammon or Chess, which offer a sense of nostalgia and the comfort of familiarity. However, there are so many wonderful titles available today that it would be a shame to limit the selection to the familiar classics. So, if you are looking for some fresh ideas for games that might be suited for seniors, here’s a list of my favourites, which you might like to explore:

QWIRKLE
2-4 Players, Ages 7-99

Qwirkle is a tile-laying game that is reminiscent of Scrabble and Domino. Players place tiles in rows of either the same colour or the same shape. If you place the new tiles effectively you can score big. It is easy to learn and features large and beautiful wooden tiles.

TSURO
2-8 Players, Ages 8-99

A beautiful and beautifully simple game of laying a tile before your own token to continue its path on each turn. The goal is to keep your token on the board longer than anyone else’s, but as the board fills up this becomes harder because there are fewer empty spaces left… and another player’s tile may also extend your own path in a direction you’d rather not go. Easy to introduce to new players, it lasts a mere 15 minutes and actually does work for any number from 2 to 8.

BATTLE SHEEP
2-4 Players, Ages 7-99

Try to cover the most spaces on the board with your stack of sheep disks. During their turn, players divide one of their stacks of sheep and move the upper half in a straight line across the board until they meet an obstacle (Other sheep or the edge of the board). The game ends when no one can make another move. The player who covers the most spaces wins.

L.L.A.M.A
2-6 Players, Ages 8-99

L.L.A.M.A. is a quick card game that is reminiscent of UNO. On your turn, you either play a card to the center of the table or draw a new card. Cards may be played only if they have the same number or one number higher than the previously played card. Whoever gets rid of all their cards first, wins the round and avoids penalty points.

LABYRINTH
2-4 Players, Ages 8-99

Try to move your pawn on a path through a labyrinth. Your goal is to reach a symbol that matches one of your cards. On your turn, you push a tile into the labyrinth that will change its configuration. The first player to reach all of the symbols corresponding to their cards wins the game.

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Here are my top suggestions for new games to try for a senior:

Qwirkle

2-4 players, Ages 7-99

Qwirkle

Maximize points by laying new tiles efficiently.

Tsuro

2-8 Players, Ages 8-99

Tsuro

Lay road tiles and try not to fall of the edge of the board.

Battle Sheep

2-4 Players, Ages 7-99

Battle Sheep

Cover as many spaces with your sheep as possible.

L.L.A.M.A

2-6 Players, Ages 8-99

Be the first to play all your cards from your hand.

Labyrinth

2-4 Players, Ages 8-99

Labyrinth

Create a path for your pawn to reach your next symbol on the moving board.

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