For older adults, games represent so much more than a fun pastime; they offer an array of mental and physical benefits.

The biggest perk seniors get from playing games comes from the interactions they have with others. Approximately 20% to 30% of seniors regularly experience isolation and loneliness. Unfortunately, loneliness doesn’t just make seniors feel sad; it also harms their health, increasing their odds of cognitive decline, heart disease and even death. One incredible benefit of life at EdenHill is the variety of games we offer in our programming, making our residents both healthier and happier.

At EdenHill communities, we offer so many activities you just won’t know where to begin! Most of our residents have to pick and choose which activities they’ll attend since we have so many options. Take a look at our monthly calendar of activities to see what our residents are doing this month.

A cognitive boost

Card, trivia or puzzle games improve attention span and slow mental decline. Popular options include Sudoku, crossword puzzles, Scrabble and Qwirkle, a game that has players match tile colors and shapes, requiring pattern recognition and strategy skills.

For older adults with dementia and other memory ailments, fill-in-the-blank word games can help them retain language skills and vocabulary. Seniors with memory issues also can learn to play more complex games — if they’re taught slowly.

Mental games also benefit older adults without memory issues, helping them keep their minds active and sharp. Studies show that seniors who participate in mentally stimulating activities decrease the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other dementia by 75%.

Stronger seniors

Physical games that improve strength, balance and movement can be a “sneaky” way to encourage older adults to get more exercise.

Participating in games such as our chair volleyball requires balance, visual perception and arm strength, which leads to improved overall motor skills.

Many physical activities include a mental component as well. Our line dancers meet twice weekly to learn new routines. Not only do they get great overall conditioning, their memory and coordination is strengthened. Any games requiring players to keep score is a fun way to stimulate mental processes while participating in a social setting. At EdenHill, our weekly Bridge gatherings, men’s poker group, “gals and games”, and 42 dominoes keep folks challenged. And you should see the Bunco parties! You’d never believe such fun activities are so important in exercising seniors’ strategic thinking skills.

Encouraging play

Although many residents at senior retirement communities engage in games on their own, some benefit from creative “enticements” from our Team. EdenHill uses the following approaches to help encourage residents to participate:

Create friendly competition and reward participants. Throughout the year, we challenge our residents with wellness competitions. Currently, several of our residents are participating in the 21 HoliDAYS CHALLENGE, which requires them to attend special events, complete brain fitness packets, participate in wellness classes and search for an elf that is hidden every day for the next 21 days. They must work together as a team to accumulate points. We like to reward our residents for their time and effort. Usually we award the contestants with their prizes at a party or a ceremony of some sort to celebrate and make the event special.
Encourage support and develop a buddy system. Many of our residents are supportive and encouraging to those that have just moved in. If you’re attending a wellness class for the first time or going on a group outing, you will most likely be attending with a buddy. We also have resident-led activities, such as book club, coloring and conversations, art group, cards and dominoes, line dancing, and many others where you can find individuals with similar interests. We will help you get involved and there are many opportunities to do so.
Make games accessible. With a wide variety of activities available, we make it easy to participate. We offer modifications in exercise classes, larger font or pictures with brain fitness challenges, play Pictionary on a large white board to make it easier to see, and other adaptations that allow everyone to get involved.

Whether older adults are playing with other residents, family members or staff members, it’s important to remember that it’s not just about playing the game correctly; it’s about being in the moment and having fun together.

Adapted from McKnight Senior Living, September 16, 2019