Did you know that playing games can actually help prevent and treat dementia? It’s true! Studies have shown that for seniors with dementia, playing games can even be a more effective treatment than medication (1). But the types of games you play matters. Some types of board games, card games, memory games, and video games have been shown to reduce and prevent symptoms of cognitive decline and memory loss (2, 3). In this article, we will explore the top 20 games of all types for seniors with dementia.
Top Games for Seniors with Dementia by Type
Here are our favorite engaging card games, fun board games, memory-boosting games and games for brain health. For senior citizens and retirees, playing games can reduce feelings of isolation, loneliness, and depression. Additionally, these games could help you or your senior loved one with symptoms of dementia, cognitive decline, and other memory loss disorders. They are also just plain fun, and encourage socialization with others!
5 Engaging Card Games
Poker is a great card game for seniors, even if you don’t want to gamble. It is a great game for seniors, especially people living in senior living communities, because it promotes a lot of social engagement. Poker also encourages fast decision-making, which is an important activity for brain health. Since gambling is not a great way to manage finances, we recommend not playing for money. Try just playing with poker chips that are not exchanged for real money, or even candy!
War is a good option for seniors in later stages of dementia, or who are already suffering from memory loss. It has very simple gameplay and can be played with 2-4 players. You can use any deck of standard playing cards, which also makes it an extremely inexpensive and accessible game. For seniors who might find other games too frustrating or difficult, War is a great choice.
Bridge has been one of the world’s most popular card games for nearly 100 years. All you need is a pack of playing cards and some friends. Bridge is a more skill-based game than one of luck, so it is great for promoting cognitive health. However, you do need 4 people to play. If you’re stuck at home, Bridge can even be played online with other players.
Canasta is another classic card game usually played in two partnerships of two players. It’s often a nostalgic game for seniors, easy to learn, and it encourages strategic thinking. Many people find Canasta easier than Bridge, so it might be a good starting point for seniors who have less experience with card games.
Rummy is a very simple card game that many people find addicting. It has a good balance of skill and chance that make it fun for beginners and experienced players alike! Since it’s easy to learn and there aren’t a lot of complex rules, it is a good choice for seniors who are battling dementia or memory loss disorders.
5 Fun Board Games
Checkers is a strategic board game that is much, much easier to learn than chess. Checkers is a great game for people who are in mid to late stages of dementia or cognitive decline. It’s also a good choice to play with grandchildren or friends. Make it extra fun and add some mobility challenges with this giant checkers set!
This ancient Chinese board game relies entirely on skill–no luck is involved. It bears similarities to Chess, and requires quite advanced strategic thinking. The brainpower required to play Go means it will help keep your mind sharp no matter your age. Check out this magnetic version and say goodbye to lost pieces!
- Call to Mind
Call to Mind is a board game developed specifically for people with dementia. It’s a great way for staff members at senior living communities to get to know their residents, as well as a fantastic conversation starter among residents! Grandchildren and children of people with dementia will also enjoy getting to know their loved ones better through this game.
Cribbage has been a popular game since the 1600’s. Its enduring popularity means seniors may have played the game as children and young adults, making it a nostalgic choice. Cribbage is also easy to score as you play, which is helpful for people with memory loss.
Since one of the main symptoms of dementia is vocabulary loss, games that encourage using and remembering words are a great way to help. Scrabble is a great one that most people already know how to play and is fun in a group.
5 Games to Boost Memory
What better way to boost memory than playing the game Memory? This version involves matching tiles and was developed for people in later stages of dementia. It helps encourage cognitive engagement and fine motor skills.
- Trivial Pursuit
Because seniors have the benefit of a lifetime of experiences, Trivial Pursuit can be particular fun for older people. You’ll have to remember facts and trivia to play this game, and memory recall is an important part of preventing and treating dementia.
Stare is a game that requires quick thinking and careful remembering. People in the early stages of dementia benefit from these types of games, because it stimulates the part of the brain that is responsible for memory formation and recall. It’s definitely a game that keeps you thinking!
Another very strategic game, Stratego is great at memory boosting because the focus is on your overall game strategy and not on individual moves. So, you are constantly working towards completing your strategy as a whole, and keeping track of the moves that will get you there. You’ll also have to use some battle psychology to defeat your opponent! This is a great two-player game, which comes in handy if you aren’t able to gather in large groups.
While you may have played Simon as a child, it’s still great fun for seniors! Bring out your inner child and encourage memory health with this battery-operated pattern game.
5 Games for Brain Health
Do you remember playing Mastermind? Most of us played this simple code-breaking game as kids. Predicting the pattern, deciphering the code, and trying to fool your opponent will keep your mind sharp no matter your age.
Azul is a beautiful tile placement game. It requires abstract thinking and strategy, which are both important to prevent cognitive decline as you get older. It’s a little tricky to learn but easy to play, and it’s great for playing with older grandkids!
While it isn’t a board game, the app Lumosity was specifically designed to help with your memory and cognitive performance. It’s a fun, easy way to train your brain every day, whether or not you have people to play games with. It also promotes mental flexibility, which is particularly important for seniors.
No family or friends nearby to play with? Stuck at home because of illness or weather? Sudoku has you covered. This popular number-puzzle game is meant for individual players, and can be done either on paper or online. It’s very easy to learn, but surprisingly tricky to complete the puzzle!
Doing the crossword is another way to use games for brain health, without needing a game partner. It has many of the same benefits as Scrabble, and helps you maintain vocabulary and recall words, but you can play anytime on your own. Many seniors love doing the New York Times crossword every day.
With these 20 top games for seniors with dementia, you can have fun, spend time with loved ones, and prevent or treat memory loss disorders. Don’t forget to play Bingo, Mahjong, shuffleboard, and other fun games offered in senior living communities! Stellar Living hopes these games help you keep your brain healthy throughout your senior years.