Games for Seniors during Isolation

by Mar 2, 2021Olaf's Corner

It has roughly been a year…

since COVID has changed the landscape of our day-to-day lives here in Manitoba. Most of us are struggling to adjust to a life with limited social interactions, separation and often boredom. One of the groups that was hit particularly hard by the imposed regulations and safety concerns are seniors. Many have not been able to visit with their family members or friends for an extended period of time. Social distancing has become a cause for loneliness, anxiety and depression. Care homes and family units are continuously looking for new ways to encourage cognitive stimulation and entertainment. I believe that board games offer a wonderful addition to keep our seniors mentally engaged and active.

Games, at their most basic level, offer a fun way to pass the time, but they can also provide additional benefits such as combating memory loss or stress relief. They can enhance memory functions and can help to exercise cognitive skills.

There are plenty of games out there and finding one that might be right for a senior in your life can be tricky. We have gotten a lot of calls at ‘Across The Board’ from people that are looking for a game that they would like to gift to an elderly member of their family, but they are not sure where to start. Many of the classic titles might have lost their charm, but will a senior be able to enjoy or to comprehend the mechanics of more modern rule sets? The good news is that there are a lot of games out there that will be a great fit in this context.

I once heard somewhere that we form a particular attachment to a musical style when we are in our late teens. Whatever music we might be into during that period will follow us for the rest of our lives. I can certainly attest to that. Even though I have been able to appreciate and to enjoy the vast landscape of modern musical gernes, I still find myself going back to that 80’s pop sound on a regular basis. It just makes sense to me. The attraction to certain styles of board games might work in a similar way. Just like in music, many modern games are rooted in ideas taken from games past. This could be either in gameplay, components or appearance. Decks of cards, for example, have been the basis for games for a long time so presenting a game to a senior that is based on cards instantly creates a feeling of familiarity. This can make the entry point easier, as it provides a reference to something that is already comfortable.

So, let us look at some more recent titles that introduce contemporary game play while giving a nod to the mechanics of classic games from the past. They will offer a senior to enjoy a new and thrilling gaming experience that is still based in a structure that they might already be familiar with.


2-4 players, ages 6 and up

This game is my ‘go to’ title as a recommendation for a senior. It is best described as a hybrid of Scrabble and Dominos. Players gather points by placing rows of large, wooden coloured tiles on the table. Tiles can either be arranged as a row of one colour or a row of one symbol. When placing a row, it has to legally connect to something that is already on the table. For me, this game provides a wonderful balance of mental stimulation and calming play, that offers plenty of space for conversations.


2-4 players, ages 7 and up

The rules for this game are extremely simple but it provides a surprising depth of play and strategy. A great choice for anyone who enjoys games like Checkers. Each player starts with a stack of sheep tiles that they try to spread out over the game board. On their turn, a player divides a stack of sheep and move the top half across the board in a straight line until they meet an obstacle (either the edge of the board or other sheep). Play continues this way until no one is able to move anymore. Whoever has sheep on the most spaces, wins.


2-4 players, ages 8 and up

Ticket to Ride has been successful title for all ages because of its easy-to-learn rules. This version is a more compact version that plays in only about 20 minutes. Players try to create a network of bus tour routes in the city of London. On their turn they can either exchange sets of same-coloured cards from their hand to claim a route or draw 2 new cards into their hands. Points are awarded for routes and bonus points are given at the end of the game for any connections that a player might have on their destination tickets. A great version of an already great game.


2-6 players, ages 8 and up

A must-play for anyone who likes games similar to Uno mechanics. Players try to empty their hand first by pacing a card on the table that is exactly one number higher than the previous played cards. Cards range from numbers 1-6 and after the 6, a Llama card can be played which re-sets the counting back to one. Any payers left with cards in their hand at the end of a round gather minus points for them. Once a player reaches minus 40 points they lose.


1-8 players, ages 7 and up

A popular game for a reason and a modern twist to Scrabble. Using a selection of 144 plastic letter tiles, each player works independently to create their own ‘crossword’. When a player uses up all their letters, all players take a new tile from the pool. When all the tiles are gone, the first player to use up all the tiles in their hand wins. The game also has a variant for solo play and also comes as a ‘Big Letter’ edition that makes it easier to play for people with less than perfect eyesight.

Are you intrigued to introduce a new game for a senior? Here are my top suggestions:


2-4 players, Ages 7 and up.


A charming and relaxing title laying game

Battle Sheep

2-4 Players, Ages 7 and up

Battle Sheep

Smartly divide your herd of sheep to cover the most spaces.

Ticket to Ride: London

2-4 Players, Ages 8 and up

A light and compact version of the orgional.


2-6 Players, Ages 8 and up

Be the first player to empty your hand of cards.

Big Letter Bananagrams

1-8 Players, Ages 7 and up

Just like the origional but with larger easy-to-see tiles.

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