Staying active and engaged can have numerous benefits, like keeping the mind sharp by enhancing the ability to think and learn. It can also boost your mood, increase confidence, and help you socialize. Whether you are by yourself or with family and friends, you can find ways to keep the mind stimulated. If you are looking for something fun to do without stepping outside, here are some of the best indoor games for the elderly:
Group activities are a part of nursing or retirement homes to help make everyone come together for some wholehearted fun. For this, you can choose from various sit-down and movement-based activities to engage large groups. Here are some of the best games for the elderly:
Sit-down games for seniors
Puzzle, tile, and board games
Analog games are great for seniors, as they can help slow down cognitive decline, reduce chances of depression, and keep you engaged for longer. Here are some puzzle, tile, and board games to try:
- Rummikub: Divide your group into smaller groups of four, and hand them the tiles for a game of Rummikub. The goal of this game is pretty straightforward—get rid of your tiles as fast as possible by forming sequences of the same color or playing three or more tiles of the same number. This entertaining and interactive game will keep you on your toes as it tests your basic math and memory skills.
- Jenga: It is time to test your dexterity, problem-solving skills, and hand-eye coordination with a game of Jenga. This game is popular among kids and adults alike as it is easy to learn and requires minimal setup. Form groups of 2–6 people (if you like to play by the rules) or more, and get ready for a ton of fun.
- Backgammon: This is a game meant for two people to play at once. To win, you need a stellar combination of luck and skill. Although the rules may be slightly more complicated to understand, this sit-down game is very popular among seniors.
- Mahjong: This is a four-player tile game that tests skills like calculation, observation, risk assessment, and memory. The goal is to build a winning combination of tiles in sets and pairs, which are also called “melds” or “eyes”.
- Cranium: Here is a fun brain game for seniors with a bunch of puzzles to solve by acting, guessing, sculpting, sketching, and humming. Meant for four people or more, the game requires virtually no time to set up and is a brilliant way to keep large groups engaged for a long period.
These games have been popular for centuries because of their simplicity—cards are easily portable and typically require no other equipment to play. It is no surprise that they are among the most preferred games for the elderly at nursing and retirement homes. What’s more? These games can be made even more accessible for seniors by using oversized cards, cards with bigger fonts, or mechanized shufflers.
- Gin rummy: The goal of this game is to get your cards in sequential order before your opponent does. This game is ideal for two people but can be played by groups of up to four at a time. Although there is no substitute for pure luck in this game, it does require skills like focus, concentration, and memory.
- Bridge: Bridge is a wonderful card game that promotes teamwork and coordination. Here, partners work together to defeat the opposing team by making bids and using winning tricks. It is perfect for groups of four.
- Go Fish: The goal of this game is to make complete sets of four-of-a-kind cards (such as aces or kings) by asking your opponents or “fishing” for them in the central pile. It promotes hand-eye coordination and social skills.
- UNO: This is a fun and easy card game with its own set of instructions. The game is meant to help you socialize and use a bit of strategy to be the first to get rid of all your dealt cards.
- Cheat: This game is known by other names as well, such as Bluff or Liar. Here, the goal is to use deception to get rid of all of your dealt cards. You place them face down and are permitted to lie about them while your opponents try to figure out the truth before the turn passes on.
Dice games, too, are portable and extremely fun to play. Here are some popular sit-down dice games you can play with other seniors:
- Mexico: The goal of this game is to avoid rolling the lowest number in each round, and the last one standing wins. This game does not require equipment apart from the dice and a flat surface to roll it on. It can also easily accommodate as many people as you want.
- Yahtzee: A dice game based on poker, Yahtzee is great for keeping your mind sharp using recognition, strategy, and basic math.
- Can’t Stop: This is another popular board game that involves taking risks and strategizing. It is meant for 2–4 players and can be a fun game at senior gatherings.
Word and number games
One of the best ways to sharpen your mind is by playing word and number games. These cognitive games are ideal for seniors, encouraging thinking on your feet and making quick moves.
- Scrabble: This classic game is a great way to keep working on your vocabulary. The objective here is to outscore your opponents by making new words or adding to the existing ones on the board. You can also play Scrabble online and test your spelling, quick-thinking, and decision-making skills.
- Boggle: If coming up with new words sounds taxing, try a game of Boggle. It comes with 16-letter dice that you shake up. Then, you and your opponents go on a word search, and the person who finds more hidden words wins. It is a great way to improve your vocabulary and awareness in a fun way.
- Scattergories: Make teams or play individually to create clever answers for each category. The hurdle here is that each answer should begin with the same letter, and the team (or player) with the highest number of unique answers wins. All the game requires is basic reading and writing skills, and it is a fun way to get seniors to think creatively and boost organizational skills.
- Balderdash: If you have a bunch of pranksters in your group, this game is for you. The goal of Balderdash is to fool the other players into thinking that your answers are true. You can use obscure words, people, things, or movies to convince others and win the game. Playing Balderdash can encourage critical thinking and reasoning skills, making it one of the best games for seniors to play.
Assisted living communities or nursing homes host games for a lot of people, making bingo perfect for such nights. You can opt for the traditional bingo using numbers or choose to personalize the game for your participants. For instance, when celebrating someone’s birthday, you can add personal tidbits from their life as the answers and encourage your participants to engage with each other. Your group is sure to love the extra thought, and it will bring the players closer.
Memory and trivia games
Encourage your group to jog their memory as they take on trivia and guessing games. You can choose from popular ones or come up with games that are better suited for your group.
- The Price Is Right: Recreate the popular TV game show right where you are. First, go shopping for a few items (based on your budget) and note their prices. Ask the seniors to guess how much they cost. The person whose guess comes closest to the actual price, without going over, is the winner of that round. Play multiple rounds based on the number of participants. Give away prizes in the middle of the game, or make it a winner-takes-all event.
- Fact or Fiction: This game may require a little planning, but it is super fun to play. Get five interesting or weird facts, and make up five of your own. Mix them up, and number them from 1 to 10. Print multiple copies of this sheet, and pass it around among the participants to let them guess what’s fact and what’s fiction. If you would like to save the trouble of printing them, you can just read them out to the group and let them mark each item as fact or fiction on a separate sheet of paper. Tally the right answers to find your winner.
- Year of Invention: Look for 10 random products or gadgets around you, and find out when they were invented. Then, ask all the seniors in the group to take a guess. For each answer that they get right, give them 10 points. For every answer within 50 years of the correct answer, grant 5 points. Or come up with your own scoring system. Tally the points at the end of all the rounds to determine the winner. Depending on the group you are entertaining, you can make this a pen-and-paper activity or encourage them to answer out loud.
Movement-based activities for seniors
- Name That Tune: Start by curating a list of songs that will be nostalgic for your group. For instance, if the average age of your players is around 60 to 65, choose and play popular songs of the 1950s–60s. Get your fellow participants grooving to the music before they name the tune, or make it an easy sit-down party game by simply asking them to announce the name of the song.
- Exercise: Working out is a healthy activity for seniors, as it can help mitigate the risk of disease and keep the body fit. Choose an exercise intensity that your group can comfortably perform without losing their breath. If you are looking for ways to make low-intensity exercising more fun, you can also try creative stuff like chair dance, chair Zumba, or chair tai-chi.
- Yoga: Yoga is a great way to keep your mind healthy and sharp. It promotes mind-body coordination and flexibility and can be a relatively easy way for seniors to get a little indoor exercise. It also helps relieve stress. Combine it with easy meditative practices to get the most out of the sessions.
- Dance: If you are hosting a party for seniors and need an exciting activity to keep everyone entertained, just play their favorite dance numbers. Alternatively, you can set up a karaoke station and encourage them to sing along. These activities are an excellent way of promoting balance, coordination, socialization, and well-meaning fun.
Sometimes, you may prefer sitting by yourself and engaging in activities on your own. For those days, the following may help keep you entertained:
Arts and crafts
There are a variety of arts and crafts to choose from, depending on your inclination. They can help you improve your creative expression and practice hand-eye coordination while keeping you engaged. Some great sit-down activities for adults include origami, adult coloring books, or making pressed flowers or greeting cards. You can also try senior-friendly DIY activities like making clay jewelry, beading your own necklaces, or making a small birdhouse. Choose activities based on your skills and interests to keep yourself busy.
Knitting and crocheting
This is one of the most cliched pastimes for seniors, but it is still popular. Knitting and crocheting help keep the hands engaged and benefit those with dementia and other memory-related conditions. What’s more? You get to create presents for yourself or your loved ones.
Cooking and baking
Although it may sound like a regular activity, cooking and baking can be extremely engaging and rewarding. This makes it a great skill to learn or hone, especially as an effort to get moving and rely on your own cooking. You can try to take up a simple cooking challenge, making meals from scratch or using a boxed mix. This will help you learn great recipes and keep you engaged for a while.
Watching a movie
Whether you want to do this alone or call some friends over for a viewing party, watching a movie is always fun. Pop some popcorn and put on your favorite cult classic, or head to your nearest cinema for a short trip. If you are fond of experimenting, you can also look for new hits or explore films in another language or genre. This helps keep your mind engaged and opens you up to new ideas in an easy yet fun way.
Reading is a great way to keep your mind sharp. Pick up a book from any genre you enjoy. If you are unsure about what to get, just pick a classic. You can join an online library or a subscription service to nurture this habit.
Writing your thoughts in a diary or a journal is a great way to express yourself. This is especially true if you feel like you are going through something that others around you may not be able to understand. All you need to do is find a quiet place, pick a time that works best for you, and pen your thoughts, plans, or even poetry. Explore your creative prowess in a way that suits you.
Sudoku is one of the best brain puzzles for seniors. It is an incomplete grid of numbers, and you are supposed to fill in the remaining digits such that each row, column, and sub-grid contains a number from 1 to 9 without repetition. You can try the daily sudoku puzzles in newspapers, buy a sudoku puzzle book, or download an app on your phone to play whenever you like.
Jog your mind with some fun crossword puzzles. Just like Sudoku, you can find these in your daily newspaper or buy a book to solve them as you like. Crossword puzzles are a brilliant way of practicing untangling cryptic clues, improving your vocabulary, relieving stress, and learning something new.
Simple word search puzzles are an easy way to entertain yourself. They help you develop greater awareness of your surroundings as you hunt for the clues horizontally, vertically, and diagonally. They also help you sharpen your short-term memory. You can find puzzle books dedicated to word searches or play these games on your phone or computer.
Indoor gardening is a great way of getting your hands dirty without having to step out. Set up an indoor garden with a container, soil, and a few plants. Not only is gardening a fun and therapeutic activity, but it will also help you brighten up your surroundings and bring in some greenery. Plants that do well indoors include basil, mint, rosemary, lavender, tomatoes, and peppers.
There are plenty of ways to keep the brain occupied, whether via exercising and dancing, tabletop games, or mind games meant to jog your cognition. Whatever you choose, remember to keep your core audience in mind and pick a senior-friendly activity based on participants’ preferences; this is how you will get the maximum engagement from them and have the most fun.