10 Best Games to Play with Seniors

Engaging games for seniors help offset the effects of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Connect with a game-playing senior companion through Mon Ami.

Young boy playing chess with older man

Games that engage senior minds can help maintain cognitive abilities and slow the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia. The benefits of play often make a noticeable difference in a short period of time. Games are also a great way to connect and share, which is vital for those suffering from the effects of social isolation, which is a problem all too common among older adults.

Games Bring People Together

Feeling isolated isn’t as simple as being lonely. You can be surrounded by people in a friendly environment and still feel that you aren’t able to connect or engage. Being near people isn’t enough; to feel truly satisfied, people need to bring purpose to their interactions. Games are an ideal solution because they give people new ways to interact and enable them to connect, share stories and develop meaningful relationships.

Give purpose to interactions helps wash away a person’s social anxieties. Whether players are competing against each other or working together on a team, they quickly let their guards down and allow their personalities to shine through. Games provide a common ground upon which to stand and invest quality time together.

The Effects of Play on the Mind

In a study of roughly 2,800 seniors, researchers found that by regularly engaging in activities related to memory, reasoning and mental speed, individuals saw notable improvements in brain function. These cognitive benefits persisted over the next five years, showing how easy it can be to hone a mind and keep it sharp with a small investment of time.

The results were even better when a variety of activities were employed, so it may be important to find new, and perhaps more challenging ways, to play. Activities that engage multiple parts of the brain are commonly found in board games that most seniors can easily learn and enjoy.

Great Games for Seniors

The ideal game will be different for each individual. Activities with physical elements aren’t a great fit for everyone, and games with time limits or complex strategies may frustrate those with reduced cognitive ability. The list of games below provides options that challenge the mind in different ways, provide varying levels of social interaction and are accessible to a wide range of seniors.

Each game is listed with a rating for accessibility, brain testing and social experience. A high accessibility rating means seniors of all types of mobility levels can play, a high brain testing score means the game requires more critical thinking or memory than lower-rated options and a high social experience means plenty of time to talk and enjoy the company of other gamers.

1

Call-to-Mind

  • 5/5 Accessibility
  • 4/5 Brain Training
  • 5/5 Social Experience

Call-to-Mind is all about communication, and it was developed for people in the early stages of dementia. It’s easy to play and features questions designed to help players recall moments from their past, strengthening connections to the memories they hold most dear. It’s also a wonderful way for seniors to get to know each other and tends to start conversations you might not otherwise have.

2

Scrabble

  • 3/5 Accessibility
  • 4/5 Brain Training
  • 4/5 Social Experience

Word games for seniors are wonderful tools to keep the mind sharp and active, and Scrabble has been played and recommended for years in facilities such as assisted living communities. The game asks players to put together and recall words and make strategic decisions about where to place their tiles, creating a very engaging experience. Small tiles and letters in some versions of the game might not work for everyone, but regular Scrabble battles can slow the progression of cognitive impairment for those who enjoy it.

3

Puzzles

  • 3/5 Accessibility
  • 5/5 Brain Training
  • 3/5 Social Experience

Working on a jigsaw puzzle has a wide range of beneficial effects for seniors with memory loss or dementia. Both hemispheres of the brain are engaged in the process, as puzzles require equal parts creativity and logic to solve. They can improve short-term memory as well as visual recognition and help players concentrate and relax. Keep in mind that seniors with arthritis might have a hard time with small puzzle pieces, and for people with impaired vision, it’s best to choose simpler images with distinct shapes and colors. You can even have a puzzle made from a photo of a cherished memory.

4

PicLink

  • 5/5 Accessibility
  • 4/5 Brain Training
  • 3/5 Social Experience

PicLink is best suited for those who would find some of the other games on this list too difficult or frustrating. It’s simple, fun and assists with cognitive function in persons living with dementia. It comes with a set of 36 photo tiles that can be grouped by colors, subjects and other factors, and the game’s difficulty can be easily adjusted by using a smaller set of the available tiles. Some seniors would find this one much too easy, or even insultingly simple, but for those who can’t handle more complex tasks, it’s one of the only games of its type that’s designed for adults.

5

Nintendo Switch

  • 2/5 Accessibility
  • 5/5 Brain Training
  • 5/5 Social Experience

Nintendo’s video games tend to be more accessible than those on other systems and are designed for anyone to pick up and play intuitively. However, many games will still be too much for some seniors as a lot of movement and action may be presented on the screen and responses may need to be rapid and controlled.

The best games for seniors on the Switch are designed for simple, mentally engaging play, and 1-2 Switch is a great example. Players are directed to look at each other while they play, not a TV screen, and there are a variety of fun activities to keep them interested. Games in the Mario Party series can also be great for people of all ages, with a board game-like design and simple, quirky minigames that are sure to evoke some laughter.

6

Trivial Pursuit

  • 4/5 Accessibility
  • 4/5 Brain Training
  • 5/5 Social Experience

Trivia games are a great way to sharpen recollection, and Trivial Pursuit has a lot to offer for seniors. It might be frustrating for those who struggle with advanced memory loss, but the game can easily be played in teams to take the pressure off. When your loved one does have the right answer, contributing to a team is a great feeling for anyone.

7

Chess and Checkers

  • 4/5 Accessibility
  • 4/5 Brain Training
  • 3/5 Social Experience

Chess is a particularly engaging game that demands a lot of concentration and strategic thinking, so it’s good for seniors who want to stay sharp and avoid cognitive problems before the onset. For those already afflicted by Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, checkers is a good alternative with a simpler set of rules and mechanics.

8

Shake Loose a Memory

  • 5/5 Accessibility
  • 4/5 Brain Training
  • 5/5 Social Experience

Recalling pleasant memories and starting conversations is the goal of Shake Loose A Memory card game. Each card starts out by instructing the player to “keep this card if” they have done something in their past, such as tending to a garden or going fishing. The card then asks a question such as, “Remember putting bait on the hook?” There are no wrong answers, and the way you win the game is by sharing stories and remembering things you might not have thought about for a while.

9

Pictionary

  • 3/5 Accessibility
  • 4/5 Brain Training
  • 5/5 Social Experience

As a drawing game, Pictionary won’t be a good fit for seniors with arthritis or very shaky hands, but it engages the mind in unique and fun ways for those who can enjoy it. Pictionary is often at its best when players form teams and work together to solve the drawings. Most importantly, it doesn’t matter how capable an artist a person is. In fact, the worse the artwork, the more fun the game tends to be for everyone involved.

10

Card Games

  • 4/5 Accessibility
  • 4/5 Brain Training
  • 3/5 Social Experience

You can’t get more bang for your buck than with a deck of cards. The number of different games you can play here brings a lot of variety, and you can choose what’s appropriate for the skill levels and cognitive abilities of your players. A simple memory game can be played by laying cards out on a table and letting players turn over two at a time, keeping them if they uncover a matching pair. Old favorites like Pinochle, Cribbage and Rummy are popular among seniors, and Solitaire or Hearts can be played alone if desired.

Mon Ami Companions Play Games with Seniors

Companionship is essential for people of any age, but seniors feel more socially isolated on average than any other age group. At Mon Ami, we match seniors with college students so they can spend time together engaging in activities appropriate for each individual. It’s a simple way to make sure your loved one’s social needs are being met. Social isolation is a big issue for students, too, so everyone wins when we bring people together.

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