With the recent COVID-19 situation, seniors are staying in their homes to protect their health. Whether your senior friend or loved one has been at home due to quarantine for a few weeks or for a longer amount of time due to chronic health-related reasons, it can be hard to find solo activities for them that are fun and engaging.

Cognitive health – the ability to clearly thing, learn, and remember – is an important component of brain health. Being intellectually engaged also helps with motor, sensory and emotional functioning.

Persons who engage in meaningful activities, such as volunteering or hobbies, say that they feel happier and healthier. Staying connected to family and friends – by phone or email during this pandemic – will also help with isolation and engagement in the world.

Seniors must keep their minds active. Older adults who actively participated in intellectual activities — such as reading and playing card and board games — were at lower risk for dementia later in life, according to findings referenced in “Reading, Playing Games in Late Life May Delay, Prevent Dementia” by Helio Psychiatry.

What Types of Games are Best for Seniors?

jigsaw-puzzle

  • Games that enhance hand-eye coordination through the movement and manipulation of pieces.
  • Games that strengthen mental capacity through word-related activities, mental exercises or questions that encourage verbalization of ideas.
  • Games that improve recall by facilitating the recollection of memories with verbal interaction or pictures.
  • Games that forge mental connections by association.

1. Cup Stacking

Cup stacking, also referred to as sport stacking, originated in the early 1980s and is exactly what it sounds like. You stack and unstack cups into piles. It is a fun, active game that improves hand-eye coordination and involves elements of sequencing and patterning.

How to play

This is a great activity because it requires very little equipment – all you need are cups! Some people use disposable plastic cups but we suggest choosing cups that are a bit more rigid, like these. The only requirements here are that all of the cups are the same size and not made of glass.

Now, the objective is to build a tower with the cups and then take the tower down. It sounds a bit boring at first but there is a satisfaction that is hard to describe when you start getting better and better at stacking.

There are a lot of great instructional videos on Youtube that give step by step directions on how to start cup stacking.

2. Solitaire

Solitaire is a classic game that many seniors already love. It is simple to understand and fairly easy to play but provides opportunities for problem-solving and option assessment.

A lot of seniors are familiar with playing solitaire on the computer but setting up a physical game with a deck of cards can help maintain dexterity because they are physically handling the cards instead of just clicking buttons.

There are also more challenging versions of solitaire that they can learn like Pyramid Solitaire which requires removing two cards from the pyramid that add up to 13.

3. Jigsaw Puzzles

An image on a jigsaw puzzle can be a great way to remind people of places, things and activities that they were once familiar with. This sense of familiarity is important for people who are starting to experience memory loss and can help recall memories from the past. You can even create custom jigsaw puzzles with pictures of friends and family.

Jigsaw puzzles work both sides of the brain and stimulate it through the repeated search for puzzle pieces with similar shapes and colors. It requires concentration and some memorization to be able to get the pieces in the right spot and is a great solo activity for those who have mobility issues.

4. Word Puzzles

Word puzzles are a classic way to pass the time. Whether it is the daily crossword in the newspaper or a huge book full of different puzzles, they are an excellent sit down activity for seniors.

According to a study from the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, the more regularly participants engaged with the word puzzles, the better they performed on tasks assessing attention, reasoning, and memory.

Researchers found that when given tests assessing grammar, people who engage in word puzzles have brain function equivalent to someone ten years younger than their age. They also found that it was common for those who took short term memory tests to perform similar to someone eight years younger than their age.

Word puzzles can be played online or you can purchase physical puzzle books that provide tons of solo entertainment.

5. Online Games

The beauty of the digital age is that you can play virtually any game online and many modern games offer cognitive benefits.

For example, if the senior in your life was an avid bingo player, they can easily play with others online.

Even for those who are less than tech-savvy, online games are easy to find, quick to learn, and fun to play.

AARP offers a wide variety of games for seniors on their website. From word puzzles to arcade-style games that involve matching, online games can provide hours of entertainment.

Although many of the activities like solitaire can be exclusively played online, it is important to take a break from the screen and play some games outside of the digital world to help prevent eye strain and improve dexterity.

We hope this list has given you some ideas to share with your senior friend or loved one.

The services provided by Serenity Home Health can help to prevent hospital admissions – or readmissions, by providing skilled care and assessments in the home setting.  Serenity Home Health is recognized both nationally and locally for providing high-quality home health care to patients living in the Wichita or Hutchinson, KS area. Serenity Home Health was one of only 30 Home Health Agencies in the Nation to receive a Double 5-Star Rating out of more than 12,200 in the United States — and the only one to receive this distinction in Kansas.

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