Board games are among the most played games by people of all ages. However, these century-long games are especially beneficial for seniors. Discover the most stimulating board games for your elderly loved ones.
The Importance of Exposing Seniors to Mental Stimulation
Age has several changes, including cognitive, memory, and decision-making challenges. These changes, while natural, can lead to cognitive decline and impact quality of life. Thus, seniors must keep their brains and minds active by partaking in mind-stimulating games.
Board games are one of the easiest and most effective approaches to mental stimulation, especially in older adults. Studies have indicated that regular participation in board games can help preserve cognitive function in seniors. These activities challenge the brain and promote brain productivity, which in turn, aids memory retention, sharpens focus and concentration, and maximizes problem-solving abilities.
Besides the cognitive benefits, board games also positively influence mental health. Playing these games can minimize the effects of stress and anxiety, improve mood and promote a sense of social connection. As such, it is important to encourage your elderly loved ones to play as many board games as possible to keep their brain active and engaged.
5 Board Games that Promote Mental Stimulation in Seniors
Here are some of the top board games that benefit older adults. But, of course, your elderly loved one is sure to love any, if not all, of these games:
Chess is a century-old board game whose hallmark is “strategy.” It is highly stimulating, addictive, and engaging. The game is structured for two players on a square board with 64 alternating black and white squares. Each player starts the game with 16 chess pieces; one king, queen, rooks, knights, bishops, and pawns. The game’s goal is to “checkmate” the opponent’s king — the winner must strategically lure the king to a captive position and capture the piece.
Chess players must be strategic and think ahead, as every move has consequences that may affect subsequent moves. A player must also anticipate and figure out their opponent’s move ( sometimes in the nick of time) and put their strategic methods to use. It is a game of cognitive ability that strengthens cognitive processes such as critical- thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making.
Chess has several mind-stimulating benefits for seniors. Studies have found that this ancient board game can improve memory, enhance creativity and increase attention span. The game is also a therapeutic tool for alleviating symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Scrabble, like chess, is a classic mind-stimulating game. The game is presented on a board with letters on grid squares. Each player earns points for each word made per length and complexity.
Scrabble is a game of vocabulary and intellect. It is as creative as it gets and keeps the mind involved and functional. You also need a fair dose of strategy to play this game. Scrabble entails and strengthens cognitive processes such as language skills, problem-solving, and memory. These can improve cognitive performance in older adults.
Several scientific studies have confirmed that Scrabble can improve mental acuity and memory retention. In addition, therapists have also employed Scrabble as a tool to treat symptoms of anxiety and depression. Thus, seniors predisposed to mental health challenges can benefit from a regular game of Scrabble.
Settlers of Catan
Settlers of Catan, also known as “Catan,” is a well-known board game that has garnered momentum recently. Expectedly, the game is structured on a board comprising hexagonal tiles. The tiles symbolize elements such as lumber, wood, ore, grain, and brick. Players assume the role of “settlers” on the island of Catan and work to build cities, roads, settlements, and other constructional details — to become the dominant occupants on the island.
The game demands strategy and critical thinking. Players must outsmart their opponents and manage resources effectively. A player must learn to negotiate and effectively trade resources to erect various constructions. They also need to ponder the placement of their structures to increase accessibility and thwart their opponent’s advancements.
The process in itself stimulates the mind and helps improve mental fortitude. By playing the game regularly, your elderly loved one will develop problem-solving, critical thinking, and decision-making skills. And like chess and Scrabble, Settlers of Catan is an excellent stress reliever. In addition, older adults often find the game refreshing, educational, and relaxing.
Backgammon is another strategic board game that has been around for centuries. The game takes place on a board comprising 24 triangles (called points) with alternating colors ( that denote each player). Each player is given 15 checkers to move around the board at the prompt of two dice. A winner is declared when a player moves all 15 checkers off the board.
Backgammon requires strategic play and intelligent moves. Players must consider the moves based on the dice roll and their checkers’ position. They must also anticipate their opponent’s move so they aren’t caught off guard. Finally, they must consider the risk and reward of each movement and the potential to be hindered by their opponent’s checkers.
Backgammon is a simple yet complex game that requires in-depth thinking and insightful decisions. As such, it has several cognitive and mental benefits for young and old adults. Research has also shown that playing backgammon regularly improves spatial reasoning, enhances memory, and promotes mental fortitude.
Sudoku is a common logic puzzle game that entails completing a 9 by 9 grid with numbers from 1 to 9. The grid is typically divided into 9 smaller 3 by 3 grids, and players are expected to fill each row and column with numbers 1 to 9 without repetition. As a result, sudoku puzzles have varying levels of complexity — some are easier than others and vice-versa.
Overall, this crowd-pleasing puzzle game demands logical reasoning and strategy, positively impacting cognitive function where problem-solving and attention to detail are concerned. Players must analyze the puzzle and determine which numbers complement which cells per the existing numbers on the row, column, and 3 by 3 grid.
They must also eliminate incorrect options to solve the puzzle and consider multiple possibilities. Sudoku has incredible cognitive benefits, as evidenced by scientific research. If your elderly loved one is struggling with concentration or has memory challenges, a regular game of Sudoku can be the game-changing remedy they need. Aside from traditional board offerings, you can find and play sudoku puzzles in newspapers, books, and online.
The Benefits of Playing Board Games for Seniors
Board games offer several advantages for older adults, including cognitive, physical, emotional, and social benefits. Here is how board games can benefit your elderly loved one:
Board games are brain-challenging. It entails critical thinking, which has a positive impact on cognitive function. Playing these games regularly can enhance memory, improve focus and concentration, and strengthen decision and problem-solving skills. It can also help to slacken age-associated cognitive decline and reduce dementia risk.
Most board games support fine motor skills and seamless hand-to-eye coordination. Age may lead to a decline in these physical skills, and board games can help replenish them. In addition, board games are a fun-filled physical activity that can help seniors stay active and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Emotional stressors such as depression and anxiety can impact the quality of life in older adults. However, board games can help alleviate these symptoms by stimulating “happy hormones” and providing a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.
Social interactions are essential for seniors to maintain a happy and healthy lifestyle. Playing board games with their peers, loved ones, or caregivers allow older adults to interact and connect with other people — which helps to curb feelings of loneliness and isolation. This wholesome activity can also improve communication and teamwork skills.
Quick Tips for Introducing Board Games to Elderly Loved Ones
Whether you are a home service companion caregiver or a concerned loved one, you can successfully introduce board games to seniors by adopting these tips:
#1 Start by introducing simple games that are easy to learn and play, such as checkers, Uno, or dominoes. This will help boost confidence and familiarize the senior with the concept of board games.
#2 Choose games that align with the interests of your elderly loved one. For example, find out which games they are more enthusiastic about, puzzles like sudoku, word games like scrabble, or strategy games like backgammon.
#3 Create a comfortable and relaxed environment for playing board games. Incorporate comfy seating arrangements and good-quality lighting and eliminate distractions.
#4 Exercise patience when teaching or playing board games with your elderly loved one. Encourage them to try new games and graciously accommodate their errors. Dish out compliments and even rewards when due.
#5 If you are too busy to teach or play board games with your elderly loved one, hire a house service companion caregiver or nursing assistant from the House Service App to do this in your stead.
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