Part of taking care of an elderly loved one is doing your best to ensure that he or she is happy. Unfortunately, elderly people are just as susceptible to boredom as the rest of us are, and boredom seldom has positive effects on any of us.
Lack of recreational leisure activities is associated with an increased risk of dementia. The results of a 21-year study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that there is a significant association between a higher level of participation in leisure activities and decreased risk of dementia, including Alzheimer's. One of the leisure activities engaged in was playing board games.
Here are a few games you can consider when you sense that your elderly loved one needs a change of pace in his or her life. Remember that games for seniors need to be complex enough to hold their interest, yet not so challenging as to cause them to become frustrated and quit. For this reason, the games that an elderly person will enjoy will vary depending on each person's capacity.
Consider a crossword
Many seniors enjoy doing crossword puzzles. These simple games can be as challenging or as simple as you like. Simply search for the level of challenge you wish and print them right off the Internet. If your elderly loved one cannot see well, you can enlarge the print to make it easier for him or her to see.
Another idea--especially handy if you are working with several seniors--is to use an overhead projector to project the crossword puzzle onto a grease board. The seniors can work together to figure out the puzzle, and you can write words in on the board as they are discovered.
Card games for seniors
If doing a crossword puzzle wouldn't be appealing to your loved one, consider whether he or she would enjoy playing cards. There are many, many card games available, and they come in a wide variety of difficulty and complexity. Just choose the game that will fit your loved one and deal up a game!
It's worth noting that some games involve recall of cards that were revealed and then hidden again. These games can be a good mental exercise for those seniors who are fighting dementia. They can be quite challenging at times, though, so be sure you're connecting well with your elderly loved one, and be sure to switch activities if it becomes apparent that he or she is no longer having a good time.
Like card games, board games come in all levels of difficulty and complexity. If your elderly loved one likes a long, hard-fought victory, you could consider a game such as Monopoly. On the other hand, if he or she likes to play fast-paced, simple games, there's always the old standby of bingo.
Jigsaw puzzles are a great way to spend an afternoon and break up the boredom that your loved one may be fighting. You can get jigsaw puzzles with endless varieties of pictures on them. Further, some puzzle manufacturers make puzzles with jumbo-sized pieces to make it easier for elderly people--some of whom may be dealing with arthritis or similar ailments--to grasp and place them.
As with card games and board games, you can get puzzles at all difficulty levels. Some elderly people desire a real challenge and will like the more advanced puzzles. Others just like to look at the picture and will be happy with a simple puzzle. Whatever your loved one's preference, it's not hard to find a puzzle to match it.
If your elderly loved one seems to be struggling to keep a good outlook, it may be a simple case of boredom or lack of interaction. These games are great ways to break up the routine and provide a way for you to spend some time in each other's company.
When selecting a game, be sure that you consider the tastes and abilities of your loved one. You don't want something that is so simple it will bore him or her, but you also don't want to overwhelm him or her with something that's too difficult. Choose the appropriate game and have fun together!
Verghese, J., Lipton, R.B., Katz, M.J., Hall, C.B., Derby, C.A., et al. (2003). Leisure Activities and the Risk of Dementia in the Elderly. The New England Journal of Medicine, 348: 2508-16. Available online at http://www.schulschachstiftung.schulschach-bayern.de/uploads/2508_verghese.pdf. Last visited January 4, 2016.
Woolman, Lindsay. Games for Senior Citizens. Available at http://seniors.lovetoknow.com/Games_for_Senior_Citizens. Last visited January 2, 2016.
Elderlyactivities.co.uk (website). Indoor Games Activities. Available at http://www.elderlyactivities.co.uk/category/indoor-games-activities. Last visited January 2, 2016.