It’s important that as people age they find ways to keep both their body and mind sharp. Sandy Gibson, the Director of Nursing with BrightStar of Chicago, put together a great list of games and activities to do with seniors to help with memory. These are great exercises for those suffering from dementia.
Memory Card Game
This classic card game is a great way to exercise memory. Lay all the cards from a deck face down in a 13 x 4 pattern. The first player turns two cards over at random. If they are a match, he gets to keep them and go again. If they are different numbers, he must turn them back over and it is the next player’s turn. As more and more cards are revealed, players are forced to remember where certain cards are in the grid. The player with the most pairs at the end of the game wins.
Simon Says exercises reflex skills and memory. It is appropriate for seniors already experiencing memory loss. Stand at the front of the room. Do an action, such as putting your hands on your head. Describe the action, introducing it with “Simon says.” For example, “Simon says put your hands on your head.” The participants must imitate your actions until you describe a gesture you are doing without saying “Simon says.” Anyone who does the gesture is out. The game requires that seniors quickly recall the names of body parts.
Name That Tune
This game is great for exercising and testing long-term memory. Assemble various recordings of songs that were popular when today’s seniors were young. Play a short clip from a song. Participants must write down the name of the song and the artist. Play 10-15 different songs. Announce the answers one by one. The participant with the highest number of correct responses wins.
This game strengthens both long- and short-term memory. Assemble a group of senior citizens in a circle. Go around the circle and have participants share memories of a favorite hobby or activity from their childhood. Once each person has had a chance to share, go around the circle again. This time, have each person recount the same memory of another participant. Continue until everyone has had a chance to recount someone else’s memory
In the age of technology and gadgets, seniors can benefit from a host of games. The Nintendo DS is a hand-held game console. Among the games available for it is “Brain Age/Brain Age 2,” a game with nine puzzles, multi-level Sudoku rounds and speed counting memory tests. Another, “Clubhouse Games,” offers 40 classic senior-friendly games like “Texas Hold ‘Em,” backgammon, checkers, bowling, billiards and darts. These particular activities will challenge a senior’s speed, dexterity, memory and mental focus.
You can never go wrong with traditional games that exercise mental focus and memory. Brain teasers, crossword puzzles, bingo boards and puzzles are available in large print and large sizes to make it easier for seniors to handle, see and play.
Trivia games for seniors can be a group activity that allows them to develop a sense of teamwork while bonding with their peers. Such games alleviate loneliness, a state of being that triggers depression, anxiety and dementia in seniors, according to The Senior Review. Trivia games can be especially enjoyable for seniors knowledgeable on subjects such as music, movies, history, art and sports.
Board games such as chess, Monopoly, and even children’s games like Candyland and Chutes and Ladders help improve the short-term memory of seniors. Board games provide seniors a way to assist their peers, giving them a sense of helpfulness. Board games with basic play rules are less about competitiveness and more about having fun and encouraging each player to do his best.
Other than getting fresh air and exercise, there are plenty of games to play with seniors outside. Depending on the physical fitness level of the senior, games such as Red Light Green Light, Simon Says, Freeze Tag, sports games or a scavenger hunt are examples of games to get senior citizens outdoors and are free to play.
Arts and Crafts
With items that you already have, you can do arts and crafts with your senior. According to the Seniors Love to Know website, scrap booking is a fun way to gather your photos and mementos together and is a great way to organize your treasures. Drawing and sketching can also be enjoyable and to make it a game, you can play Pictionary or have contests based on what picture looks the most realistic, the most bizarre, the most creative, etc.
Card games are free and can be fun for people of all ages. There are a variety of different card games to choose from and the flexibility of cards means that you can make up your own games if you choose. Find a game your senior wants to play or you can get ideas from the Games Info Depot website and play popular games such as Old Maid, Bridge, Poker, BlackJack and Cribbage.
Get out the bingo cards, bingo balls and bingo markers, and let the seniors enjoy a couple of games of bingo. For added fun, create the bingo cards and markers to match the nearest holiday. If Halloween is coming up, use bingo cards with pictures of bats, scarecrows, candy and scary masks. The seniors can use candy corns as bingo markers and instead of saying “Bingo,” have them shout, “Happy Halloween.” Do the same for Valentine’s Day, and use conversation hearts as bingo markers. Award the game winners with holiday-themed prizes.
Hang a wreath or circle ring from the ceiling that is approximately 6 inches in diameter. Dust several large marshmallows with flour to keep them from getting sticky. Mark a standing line 10 feet from the wreath or circle. Give each senior 10 marshmallows to try to toss through the wreath or ring. Award a prize to each senior who makes a marshmallow through the ring. For added decoration, make the ring heart-shaped for Valentine’s Day; use a holiday wreath for Christmas; and use a Halloween-themed wreath for Halloween. If you do not have marshmallows, play this game with beanbags.
Use a small rope to hang across a room. The seniors can sit in chairs or stand to play a game of balloon volleyball. Divide the seniors into two teams. Each team will get on one side of the rope. The seniors will hit the balloon back and forth like volleyball. Keep score, and the first team to score 10 points wins the game. For another balloon game, give each senior a balloon and see who can hit the balloon in the air the longest amount of time.
Brain and Mind Games
Seniors require mental stimulation and games that improve the brain and memory skills are beneficial. The Nursing Home Activities Resource website suggests games such as crossword puzzles, board games such as chess, Sudoku, Trivia games and jigsaw puzzles. To make these games free, play board games you already own and you can print out free puzzles and games from websites online or make your own!
Have several people sit in a circle. Start the game by saying, “I am going on a trip to Florida and in my suitcase I am taking a shirt.” Ask the person beside you to say the same thing but add another item to the suitcase. The person will say, “I am going on a trip to Florida and in my suitcase I am taking a shirt and a [fill in the blank].” Continue to play around the circle until it comes back to you. You end the game by reciting the original saying and remembering all the items added to the suitcase.
Ask a senior to look around a room they are familiar with like a bedroom, then ask the person to leave the room for a minute. Switch a few things in the room or hide some things. Ask the senior to return and tell you what has moved or what is missing.
Help seniors write daily journals at the end of each day. Ask them to remember each thing they did and write each thing down. Tell them to visualize their day if they are having trouble remembering the things they did. Make a game of it by trying to remember hour by hour. Ask them to remember more each day than they did the day before. See who can remember the most details.