5 Surprising Benefits of Playing Board Games

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Why do we love board games? Because they’re fun!

Whether young or old, games connect us with those around us in an entertaining and meaningful way. This makes them a valuable addition to the activity calendar at La Gappe Retirement Residence in Quebec.

“We strongly encourage our residents to join group games, such as board games,” says Marthe Francois, Director of Recreation at La Gappe Retirement Residence in Quebec.  “Any activity that encourages learning and engaging their minds is important, but some – like game play – is more essential than others.”

Benefits of Games for Seniors

Benefits of Playing Games for Seniors

Games are encouraged at La Gappe, Marthe explains, “first and foremost, because we want residents to maintain the interests that they value, as well as their hobbies.  Play motivates the senses, invigorates the imagination, and keeps the memory sharp.”

Yes, card and board games can improve memory and help with age-related memory loss because stimulating the brain via numbers, letters, colours etc. enhances brain function.  But the benefits go beyond the brain. Games and Game Clubs promote independent living, physical activity, friendship and more.

1. Encourages Interaction with Others

Quality of life is related to social interactions and can be an important aspect in older adults’ sense of well-being. The consistency provided by a club or regular meeting helps prevent isolation and loneliness. Talk and interaction with others during game play is also a fantastic an opportunity to get to know each other better and deepen friendships in your golden years.

Choose a game that multiple players can enjoy at a table or bring your computers along and play your favorite online game or puzzle.

Snakes and Ladders at Auburn Heights Retirement Residence

2. Play Is Exercise for Your Brain

Experts on aging like to say that “playing your cards right” can help keep your mind sharp long after retirement – and they’re right. Playing card games can improve short-term as well as long-term memory.

According to an article published in AARP, “two of the smartest fellows in America, if not the most accomplished bridge players, are Warren Buffett, 84, and Bill Gates, 59. Buffett once said that he wouldn’t mind going to jail — if he had three cell mates who were capable bridge players.

3. Reduce the Risk of Cognitive Decline

Did you know that board games can enhance memory formation and help exercise cognitive skills?  A British Medical Journal study notes that the risk of dementia was 15 percent lower in board game players than in non-players.

Similarly, a 68-Year longitudinal study published in the Journal of Gerontology, found that the more you played games, the higher your cognitive function at 70 and the less cognitive decline from age 70 to age 79.

4. Board Games Create More Happiness

A side effect of board games reduces stress and creates more happiness.

Playing board games triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural “feel-good” chemicals. “Happy hormones” have the power to improve conscious and unconscious mind functions, leaving a person feeling cheerful, compassionate, and ultimately content.

One study that focused specifically on the effects of jigsaw puzzles for older adults, found that the regulation of distressing emotions through jigsaw puzzling could prevent chronic stress.

5. Increase Physical Activity with Games

Certain games that require physical interaction, like Wii Sports and similar titles, can help seniors improve balance, stretching, strength, coordination, and reflexes due to the quick decision-making and action required during play.

Many traditional games are now being made larger than life!  Seniors benefit because life-size games usually involve more physical activity than sitting and playing a board game.  Giant games require full-on body movement and everyone’s undivided attention. These aren’t your ordinary board games.

Seniors playing adaptive physical game in a group.

Seniors are the new gamers

Video games may be associated with younger people, but more and more seniors are embracing technology.

Also known as “gaming” video games have many benefits for seniors.  Video games are immersive, challenging, fun, and unique. With their controls and increasing pace, video games can provide a mental workout for older adults.

As it turns out, gaming can improve hand-eye coordination and boost mental sharpness. Researchers also found that after playing online games, seniors had a boost in brain activity  on par with younger people.

Modern seniors can choose from a wide number of electronic games that they can play on a tablet, smartphone, computer, or gaming console.  People with mobility problems or who have challenges in their hands can now enjoy playing video games with technology such as the Xbox Adaptive Controller specially made with extra-large buttons and joysticks making gaming more accessible.

How to Adapt Common Games

Countless games can be modified for seniors or elderly people who have physical or cognitive limitations. For example, it’s easy to find or create games that have large type, which is good for older people who have vision problems.  If time or attention spans are a concern, many games can be played and completed in less than 30 minutes. For those with physical limitations like those imposed by arthritis, card holders or bowling ramps make play fun again!

Use Games to Connect with Friends and Loved Ones

Senior lady playing cards with family in a park

Games provide convenient ways to have fun, either alone or as part of a group. Why not create your own game club or organize a regular game night with loved ones?  The precious social interaction combined with the mental stimulation may just be what you and your loved ones need.

That’s why all our Independent Living, Assisted Living and Memory Care communities across the country have multi-purpose or game rooms where residents can challenge their neighbors or visitors to a friendly competition. Some, like Beacon Heights in Ottawa even have an indoor mini-putt course!

If you are looking for a retirement residence in Canada that offers game clubs, take a tour and learn about our other locations, like Chapel Hill Retirement Residence in Orleans, Ontario or La Gappe senior homes in Gatineau, Quebec.

When you’re looking for a retirement residence, find one that fits your lifestyle. Schedule a visit and be sure to ask about the social clubs and activities.

 

Writer – Julianna McLeod

Julianna is a health and wellness expert at All Seniors Care. Her mission is to create content that empowers seniors to form sustainable solutions for lasting health and happiness. She is an experienced writer, editor, and Recreational Therapist living in Toronto.

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