Games for Elderly People with Dementia

Scott Grant, ATP, CRTS®

Certified Assistive Technology Professional
Medical Equipment Guru
Mobility Specialist
Senior Advocate

elderly couple playing games with nurse
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As adults, we may tell ourselves that games are only for children. As we age, we tend to get caught up in the demands of life and leave playing for the young. But, games can have several important benefits for your body and brain. That’s why many games are perfect for seniors who have dementia. People who have dementia often struggle to find pastimes that they enjoy and can understand because of their diminishing mental capacities. But there are plenty of games available that are designed to help with these problems. If you think your loved one might enjoy and benefit from playing games, keep reading the guide below.

What are the Benefits of Playing Games?

Playing games has benefits for everyone, but especially for seniors with dementia. When you have dementia, many normal mental activities become too difficult. This can lead to frustration, anger, and cognitive decline. Playing games is a great way to exercise the mind in a fun and low-pressure environment. It also has a number of other benefits such as the following:

  • Exercise memory and recall. One of the primary signs of dementia is memory problems. Games that stimulate the memory can slow this decline and even encourage the brain to create new memory cells.
  • Stress Relief. Seniors with dementia often experience frustration, grief, loss, and anger as a result of their changing life and increasing dependence. Playing games, laughing and competing, can encourage positive emotions and a rush of feel-good hormones.
  • The chance to socialize. Social isolation is a big problem for seniors as their friends and family fall away. Playing games with others can give them a safe way to make a new friend and new connections. This is so important for overall mental and physical health and wellbeing.
  • Promotes the use of vital cognitive skills. A number of games require strategizing, planning or even bluffing. Playing these types of games with your senior can give them the chance to use skills that have been decaying because of their condition.
  • Physical benefits: Playing games can lower blood pressure and improve the immune system.

dice rolling on a game tableGeneral Types of Games for Seniors

The types of games you should try depends on your senior. If they enjoyed playing a specific type of game as a child, or even as an adult, it’s a good idea to try those first. If not, try some of the suggestions below and see what they enjoy. It’s also important that you don’t choose games that will be too hard for them. Aging and dementia often mean arthritis, difficulty following complicated instructions, or an inability to remember rules. And if your senior finds it too difficult to play, it will only add to their frustration. Try to choose a game they enjoy and that challenges them while still being well within their current capabilities. Some general types of games to try are:

  • Mahjong
  • Board Games
  • Card Games
  • Pictionary
  • Crosswords, though ensure these are done in a group or pair rather than alone.
  • Online Games
  • Memory Games
  • Puzzles
  • Bingo

Specific Games your Senior will Enjoy

Within the different categories of games, there are a number of specific games that your senior will probably enjoy. First and foremost is bingo. A staple of senior living many circles, this games encourages socialization, competition and cognitive skills. Also, if it’s played with the right group, it may give your senior the chance to win some really nice prizes. Most seniors enjoy card games, and there’s a card game for almost any personality type. Men usually enjoy games such as poker or blackjack, while women might like hearts, gin or pinochle.

There are also games that are a lot simpler for those who have too much trouble with complicated rules. Find a game that your senior enjoys and can easily play and encourage them to do so. There are lots of board games available, for all types of tastes and personalities. You can even dust off some old ones such as Monopoly. It’s likely that your senior has played them before and will have an emotional connection to the game that makes them eager to play.

dominoes lined up in a gameSpecific Games for Elderly People with Dementia

More and more companies are releasing games that are designed for people with dementia. Unfortunately, as dementia progresses, even the simplest card games will probably be too difficult. That’s why companies that focus on this market create games that are quite simple, but stimulating at the same time. These games are designed to be played at whatever level the player is at. They use bright colors and shapes to stimulate the mind and usually require that the player move or position game pieces. This exercises their manual dexterity and allows them to practice their visual acuity. If you’re having trouble finding games that your senior can play, some of these options might work for you.

Final Thoughts

Games are no longer solely the pastime of children. There are a lot of games available these days that are designed for seniors and their unique limitations and concerns. These games can stimulate the mind, encourage friendly social interactions, and bring a sense of challenge and fun to your senior’s life. If your loved one struggles to find interesting pastimes because of dementia or other mental issues, introduce them to some of the games above. Because everyone deserves to have a little fun.

What games have you played with someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s? What kind of changes did you make to the rules? Share your experience and recommendations in the comments below. If you found this article helpful, I’d appreciate a quick share on your favorite social media site!

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