Whether you are young or young at heart, there’s nothing a good old game can’t solve. But for elderly persons in their golden years, playing games can do more than just provide a sense of fun and entertainment. From improving multiple cognitive functions to creating a sense of community, playing games can be greatly beneficial for elderly persons.
How do you meaningfully engage the elderly at home?
Keeping older adults entertained can improve their quality of life in all aspects. This can be done through staying active, continued learning, socialisation activities, and senior gaming. In fact, there are many senior-friendly games and activities that you can do both in-home and out-of-home to stay active and engaged.
Keeping active is an important aspect throughout our lives, especially as we get older. It presents a plethora of benefits like lowering our risk of health problems and improving your strength and balance, all of which will enable you to prevent falls and injuries, and to stay independent.
For those who are less mobile due to previous accidents or chronic conditions and are unable to engage in physically-demanding activities, there are plenty of low-impact, senior-friendly exercises and activities you can participate in which are more restrained and less vigorous.
For instance, tai chi is a low-impact activity that can aid with aerobic capacity, muscle strength, and balance, which can be useful in preventing falls among the elderly. Dancing is another example that isn’t just fun and entertaining but also gets your heart pumping all at the same time. Other examples of moderate activities for seniors include swimming, yoga, walking, and cycling.
Another way to keep seniors entertained and engaged in their golden years is to upskill and continue learning new things. Learning doesn’t simply stop once we’re done with school—we learn new things everyday! With the advancement of technology in this day and age, the resources and platforms to learn new skills are nearly endless.
In a study conducted by The Rush Memory and Aging Project in 2012, it was revealed that increased cognitive activity in older adults through lifelong learning significantly decreased their risk of mild cognitive impairment. When you learn something new at any age, your brain produces new cells and stimulates mental growth that play a huge part in keeping elderly people happy and healthy.
It is a known fact that elderly persons are at greater risk of experiencing depression as they get older, especially if they have pre-existing chronic conditions or illnesses. Not only does this cause a decline in their physical health, but this will also affect their mental and emotional well-being largely.
Socialisation and interaction do not just combat the effects of loneliness and isolation, but also promotes various health benefits such as lowering the risk of cardiovascular problems and reducing the possibility of Alzheimer’s disease as well. Socialising helps keep the brain active and ensures that your mind remains sharp as you grow older.
One way to stay active in the community and meet new friends is through active ageing hubs. These hubs, located all around Singapore, hosts various activities such as group exercise sessions, cooking classes, health workshops, and social activities such as volunteering and community dining.
Whether you’re in the comfort of your own home, a senior care facility, or an elderly day care centre, games are an effective way of keeping the elderly entertained, and can even keep chronic conditions such as dementia at bay. Regardless of your level of physical mobility, there are tons of games that cater to the physical and emotional needs of our elderly loved ones.
Board and card games are popular activities amongst the elderly as it doesn’t require as much physical effort. The benefits of play can make a big impact in an elderly person’s life in a short amount of time, which shows how simple it is to hone your mind and keep it sharp with a small investment of time.
How can games help the elderly as they age?
Playing games isn’t just for children. As simple as they may be, games have the ability to engage the elderly and create a sense of fun for them in the same way that it does for children. As senior citizens get older, they might begin to lose certain physical and mental functions that they once had and begin to experience age-related conditions such as limited mobility and dementia. Most games for the elderly can stimulate the brain and improve one’s memory, which improves their overall brain function.
Besides boosting one’s cognitive functions, there is also a social element of playing games. It allows seniors to get together regularly for a classic game of bingo or mahjong. Consistently seeing other people not only allows elderly people to socialise and interact with their peers but also prevents loneliness and isolation, which is becoming increasingly common amongst the ageing population.
Traditional Old School Games
1. Paper Balls
Back when smartphones and other electronics were still foreign to many of us, paper balls provided hours of endless fun to many children and is an iconic traditional game among Singaporeans. Essentially, these paper balls can be blown up when you’re ready to play, and easily deflated for storage afterwards.
Just like a regular beach ball, there are no rules when it comes to paper balls—let your imagination run wild! Whether it’s sitting, standing, or even lying down, this is a fun yet simple way to unleash your creativity by creating your own games.
2. Five Stones
If you always wanted to try your hand at juggling but never had any luck, you might enjoy a game of five stones. Also known as jackstones to some, this game is played with pyramid-shaped cloth bags filled with either sand or rice to keep them weighted. The game is played by throwing a stone in the air and using the same hand to pick up another stone before catching the first one. Until you’ve picked up all five stones, players can keep going and continue following the progression. The main idea behind this game is to catch the falling stone in time and not let it touch the ground.
It may seem like a complicated game to play at first, but you’ll find it to be relatively easy once you get the hang of it. Apart from evoking a sense of nostalgia, this can challenge seniors to use their hand-eye coordination and sharpen their reflexes as well.
3. Kuti Kuti
On the surface, these tiny plastic tokens may not look like much. But they’re one of the most cherished traditional games in the country. In a game of kuti kuti, two players would take turns to flip their tokens until they draw closer together. Once the tokens are close enough, players will attempt flipping their token on top of their opponent’s. The first person who succeeds not only wins the round but gets to keep both pieces as well.
Alternatively, this game can also be played with flag erasers, which is also a beloved traditional game in Singapore.
If you’re not as agile with your hands, chapteh is a great way to get you on your feet. Using a chapteh or feathered shuttlecock, the objective of the game is to use your feet to keep it in the air for as long as possible. This can be played in groups—where you would pass the chapteh from one player to another, or even individually. Even though it looks simple, hitting the chapteh with your feet is actually harder than it looks. For simpler variations, players can choose to use their hands or elbows instead!
While it may seem like all fun and games, playing chapteh can improve balance, aim, and dexterity among the elderly, which can enhance one’s overall physical coordination.
5. Zero Point
Think of zero point as a game of reverse limbo: instead of going lower, players are required to jump higher as the game progresses. To make the rope that will act as a limbo stick alternative, start by tying a series of rubber bands together until you’ve reached your desired length. Once you’ve nominated two players to hold the rope at both ends, you’re ready to begin!
The objective of the game is to cross or jump over the rope without touching it. To start easy, you can try holding the rope at ankle height and slowly upping the difficulty level. Apart from the fun it’ll bring, zero point is also an effective moderate exercise that can enhance seniors’ bone and heart health while working out their leg muscles as well.
More Great Games to Play with the Elderly
Games to Improve Cognitive Function and Memory
Seniors with limited mobility may not be able to engage in physical activities and games as much. However, there are plenty of sit-down options that will jog their memory and improve their overall brain health. Much like your body, keeping your brain active is just as important as well.
6. Jigsaw Puzzles
Solving jigsaw puzzles can be incredibly relaxing and accomplishing once you’ve completed one. Apart from its therapeutic properties that can promote relaxation and relieve stress, working on a jigsaw puzzle keeps the brain active and can help seniors with memory loss and dementia. Since puzzles require both the logical and creative side of the brain to be solved, both hemispheres of the brain are actively engaged. This can significantly improve short term memory and even visual recognition.
7. Card Games
When it comes to versatility and portability, there’s nothing quite like a deck of cards. From Blackjack, spades, and old maid, there are plenty of different card games that you can play with the same deck. According to the National Institute on Aging, strategic card games can do so much more than just bring people together for a good time. They can essentially improve your memory and concentration to reduce cognitive decline in older adults. Card games that require speed and attentiveness also have the ability to develop your basic motor and sensory functions.
Board games like chess are considered to be one of the most difficult games there is due to its strategic nature, but hosts a variety of benefits that will improve problem-solving skills among elderly persons. Just like a muscle, the brain deteriorates when it is not trained often. Chess stimulates information retention and mental capacity, providing valuable mental exercise for seniors. Some studies show that senior citizens that actively and consistently engage in mentally-stimulating games like chess can lessen the risk of dementia and other memory impairments.
Games to Stay Physically Active
Some people may have the misconception that any sort of physical-related activity may be too strenuous for seniors who may not be as able-bodied or fit. However, there are many ways to modify an activity or sport to encourage participation amongst the elderly.
9. Balloon Volleyball
Playing with an actual volleyball may be too harsh for ageing adults, so alternatives such as beach balls or balloons can make volleyball enjoyable for seniors. The only rule of this game would be to not let the ball touch the ground, making it fairly simple for anyone and everyone to get up on their feet and participate. Not only is this activity physically engaging, it also allows seniors to relive their young and youthful days and evoke feelings of child-like joy through play.
For more able-bodied seniors who are looking for a low-impact exercise, pickleball is the sport of choice. It is a moderate paddle ball sport that combines elements from badminton, table tennis, and tennis. What makes pickleball the preferred paddle ball activity amongst ageing adults is its low impact on the joints and knees and aerobic properties. The pace and intensity of the game is an excellent way to keep your heart rate up and improve arm strength too.
11. Tossing Games
Traditional tossing games like bean bag toss and horseshoe is an entertaining game that can be enjoyed by both seniors in wheelchairs and those who are mobile. The tossing motion allows older adults to exercise their arm muscles and upper body. No matter where your ability lies, tossing games can be easily adjusted to cater to seniors with different strength levels.
Dance is an aerobic exercise that’s slower in pace compared to other cardiovascular activities but is safe and effective for elderly persons. While it is not seen so much as a game, some nursing homes and elderly care facilities hold friendly dance competitions amongst the seniors that foster both physical activity and social interaction.
Games that Encourage Social Interaction
Needless to say, any activity that involves two or more people would naturally encourage socialisation. Here are popular activities which are known to bring about connection and interaction amongst seniors citizens anywhere in the world.
Popularised by the Chinese, mahjong is a tile-based game that is highly enjoyed by elderly persons due to the social factor that it has. It is a popular form of social entertainment and is commonly played in gatherings and family functions, as a form of family bonding and interaction with one another. Apart from being an enjoyable activity, playing mahjong requires excellent hand-eye coordination and alertness. Due to the high volume of information processing in a limited span of time, playing mahjong is an effective yet fun way to keep one’s mental abilities sharp.
If you don’t have a set of mahjong tiles at home, there are multiple versions online of the classic game, which you can find on various websites as well as the Apple App Store or Google Play. Whether you prefer the traditional Asian version or the single-player style of Mahjong Solitaire, you’ll definitely find what you’re looking for.
A crowd favourite in most senior care facilities, bingo is a simple and fun social activity that can be played in small or large groups. Becoming a part of a regular bingo group in your community can lower the risk of isolation and mental illnesses like depression. Moreover, studies have shown that bingo has multiple benefits for the elderly too. Since it involves numbers and requires alertness, bingo challenges seniors by boosting their mental stimulation and maintaining their cognitive abilities, all while having fun at the same time. Combining socialisation and play, bingo helps older adults retain a sense of child-like fun and independence as they get older.
Even though most of us are socially distanced at the moment, there are still plenty of ways to enjoy this simple yet engaging activity. For instance, there are many websites where users can play bingo online — it could be traditional manual games that allow you to play with other online users or perhaps interactive game rooms where you and your friends can play together virtually. With intuitive interfaces, users of all ages can navigate these sites with ease and enjoy a simple round of Bingo.
15. Board Games
For elderly persons living in assisted living facilities, playing board games are a great way to pass time and bond with fellow seniors. Generally, most board games require at least four or more players and are a fun way to strengthen bonds between players and even foster a little friendly competition with one another.
Even before the pandemic started, several board game developers have taken their games to the online world. This includes popular names such as Monopoly, Clue, Game of Life, Risk, and Codenames. But if your elderly loved one still prefers the classics such as Chess or Backgammon, you can find different mobile versions directly from their phone or even through websites.
Playing games hosts a plethora of benefits and that will add life and value to a senior’s journey towards ageing. Incorporating child-like play into an elderly loved one’s daily routine gives them a stress-relieving activity and a sense of nostalgia all at once. Never underestimate the power of play and what it can do to change a senior’s life for the better.
If you have an elderly loved one with dementia or perhaps need companionship to keep them from isolation while you are working, Homage provides quality home care services for the elderly. From home therapy, cognitive activities, and specialised care, seniors will be able to receive proper care for their physical and emotional needs. Engaging in elder care services will also be beneficial for working caregivers in giving them a much-needed respite, and for families to gain an extra hand in caring for their ageing family members.
Our Care Pros can help your senior loved ones stay active in body and mind. Reach out to our Care Advisors at 6100 0055 to learn more.
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