Playing games isn’t just for children. Games have the ability to engage the elderly and create a sense of fun for them in the same way that it does for kids. As your grandparents get older, they might begin to lose physical and mental functions, and may begin to experience age-related conditions such as limited mobility and dementia. Here are 15 old school games to play with your grandparents to keep them mentally young and physically active. It’s also a great opportunity for some multi-generational bonding time!
Old School Games for Dexterity and Nostalgia
Whether you are young or young at heart, there’s nothing a good old game can’t solve. But for those in their golden years, playing games is about more than having fun. From improving multiple cognitive functions to easing loneliness, playing games can be greatly beneficial for elderly persons. Getting nostalgic with old school games can also trigger memories and heartwarming sharing moments with the grandkids.
1. Paper Balls
Back when smartphones and other electronics were still foreign to many of us, paper balls provided hours of endless fun. It is an iconic traditional game among generations of Singaporean children. Essentially, these paper balls can be blown up when you’re ready to play, and easily deflated for storage afterwards. If you can’t find ready-made retro balls, you can make your own!
Just like a regular beach ball, there are no rules when it comes to paper balls — let your imagination run wild! Whether it’s sitting, standing, or even lying down, this is a fun yet simple means of unleashing your creativity. Start playing just by creating your own games.
2. Five Stones
Also known as jackstones, this game is played with pyramid-shaped cloth bags filled with either sand or rice. To play, throw a stone in the air, using the same hand to pick up another stone before catching the first one. Until you’ve picked up all five stones, players can keep going and continue following the progression. The main idea behind this game not to let a falling stone touch the ground.
It may seem complicated at first, but it’s relatively easy once you get the hang of it. Apart from evoking a sense of nostalgia, this can challenge seniors — and juniors — to use their hand-eye coordination. It’ll help sharpen their reflexes as well.
On the surface, these tiny plastic tokens may not look like much. But they’re one of the most cherished traditional games in the country. In a game of kuti-kuti, two players take turns to flip their tokens until they draw closer together. Once the tokens are close enough, players will attempt flipping their token on top of their opponent’s.
The first person who succeeds not only wins the round but gets to keep both pieces as well. Alternatively, this game can also be played with flag erasers, which is another beloved traditional game in Singapore.
If you’re not as agile with your hands, chapteh is a great way to get you on your feet. Using a chapteh or feathered shuttlecock, the objective of the game is to use your feet to keep it in the air for as long as possible. This can be played in groups — where you would pass the chapteh from one player to another, or individually. Even though it looks simple, hitting the chapteh with your feet is actually harder than it looks. For simpler variations, players can choose to use their hands or elbows instead!
While it may seem like all fun and games, playing chapteh can improve balance, aim, and dexterity among the elderly, which can enhance one’s overall physical coordination.
5. Zero Point
Think of zero point as a game of reverse limbo. Instead of going lower, players are required to jump higher as the game progresses. To make the rope that will act as a limbo stick alternative, tie a series of rubber bands together until you’ve reached your desired length. Once you’ve nominated two players to hold the rope at both ends, you’re ready to begin!
The objective of the game is to cross or jump over the rope without touching it. To start easy, you can try holding the rope at ankle height and slowly up the difficulty level. Apart from the fun it’ll bring, zero point is also an effective moderate exercise that can enhance seniors’ bone and heart health while working out their leg muscles as well.
(See also: 10 Traditional Childhood Games Your iPhone-playing Kids Will Never Know)
Old School Games to Improve Cognitive Function and Memory
Seniors with limited mobility may not be able to engage in physical activities and games as much. However, there are plenty of sit-down options that will jog their memory and improve their overall brain health. Board and card games are excellent activities that don’t require much physical effort and can involve the whole family. The benefits of play can make a big impact in an elderly person’s life in a short amount of time; it’s a fun and simple way to hone the mind and keep it sharp with a small investment of time.
6. Jigsaw Puzzles
Solving jigsaw puzzles can be incredibly relaxing and accomplishing once you’ve completed one. Apart from its therapeutic properties that can promote relaxation and relieve stress, working on a jigsaw puzzle keeps the brain active and can help seniors fight memory loss and dementia.
Since puzzles require both the logical and creative side of the brain to be solved, both hemispheres of the brain are actively engaged. This can significantly improve short term memory and even visual recognition.
7. Card Games
When it comes to versatility and portability, there’s nothing quite like a deck of cards. From Blackjack, spades, and old maid, there are plenty of different card games that you can play with the same deck.
According to the US National Institute on Aging, strategic card games can do much more than bring people together for a good time. They can improve memory and concentration to reduce cognitive decline in older adults. Card games that require speed and attentiveness also have the ability to develop basic motor and sensory functions.
8. Strategy Games
Chess is considered one of the most difficult games there is due to its strategic nature. However, strategy games like it host a variety of benefits that will improve problem-solving skills among the elderly. Just like a muscle, the brain deteriorates when it is not trained often.
Games like chess, checkers, Chinese chess, Othello (Reversi), and Backgammon stimulate information retention and mental capacity, providing valuable mental exercise for seniors. Some studies show that senior citizens who consistently engage in such mentally stimulating games can lessen the risk of dementia and other memory impairments.
(See also: 10 Proven Ways to Give Your Child’s Brainpower a Mega Boost)
Old School Games to Stay Physically Active
Some people have the misconception that any sort of physical activity may be too strenuous for seniors who may not be as able-bodied or fit. However, there are many ways to modify an activity or sport to encourage participation among the elderly. Games entertain young and old, and can even keep chronic conditions at bay. Regardless of their level of physical mobility, there are tons of games that cater to the physical and emotional needs of our elderly loved ones.
9. Balloon Volleyball
Playing with an actual volleyball may be too harsh for ageing adults, so alternatives such as beach balls or balloons can make volleyball enjoyable for seniors. The only rule of this game would be to not let the ball touch the ground. This makes it fairly simple for anyone and everyone to get up on their feet and participate.
Not only is this activity physically engaging, it also allows seniors to relive their young and youthful days and evoke feelings of child-like joy through play. And kids love it too!
For more able-bodied seniors who enjoy a light exercise, pickleball is the sport of choice. It is a moderate paddle ball sport that combines elements from badminton, table tennis, and tennis.
What makes pickleball the preferred paddle ball activity amongst seniors is its low impact on the joints and knees. The pace and intensity of the game is an excellent way to keep your heart rate up and improve arm strength too.
11. Tossing Games
Traditional tossing games like bean bag toss and horseshoe is an entertaining game that can be enjoyed by everyone. Even seniors in wheelchairs can participate. The tossing motion allows older adults to exercise their arm muscles and upper body.
No matter where your ability lies, it’s easy to adjust tossing games to cater to seniors with different strength levels. Leave it to the kids to make up the rules as you go along.
Dance is an aerobic exercise that can be slower in pace compared to other cardiovascular activities. Play the right music and it becomes a safe and effective activity for elderly persons. Unless your grands love them some rock ’n’ roll, then hey, by all means, rock on!
Dance helps to foster both physical activity and social interaction. And there’s surely nothing cuter than grandparents and grandchildren doing a little boogie together.
(See also: Helping Children with Special Needs through Dance/Movement Therapy)
Old School Games that Encourage Social Interaction
Needless to say, any activity that involves two or more people naturally encourages socialisation. Besides boosting cognitive functions, some old school games are designed to get seniors together regularly. Interacting with their peers prevents loneliness and isolation, which is becoming increasingly common among the ageing population. Covid restrictions in the way? Then Grandpa and Grandma can have fun teaching the kiddos a thing or two instead!
Popularised by the Chinese, the tile-based game is highly enjoyed by the older generation due to the social factor. It is commonly played on weekends and at festive gatherings as a form of family bonding and friendly interaction.
Playing mahjong requires excellent hand-eye coordination and alertness. Due to the high volume of information processing in a limited span of time, playing mahjong is an effective yet fun way to keep one’s mental abilities sharp.
Bingo is a simple and fun social activity that can be played in small or large groups. Studies have shown that bingo has multiple benefits for the elderly. Since it involves numbers and requires alertness, bingo challenges seniors by boosting their mental stimulation. They get to maintain their cognitive abilities while having fun at the same time. Combining socialisation and play, bingo helps older adults retain a sense of child-like fun and independence as they get older.
At home, it can be great fun for a multi-generational family game night. Socially distanced? Don’t fret. There are many websites where users can play bingo online virtually in multiplayer settings. Or simply hook up to Zoom and have a traditional game with friends and family members near and far.
15. Board Games
Playing board games is a great way to pass time while bonding with the grandparents. Generally, most board games require at least two to four or more players. You’ll keep their minds active and even foster a little friendly competition with one another.
Even before the pandemic started, several board game developers have taken their games to the online world. This includes popular names such as Monopoly, Clue, Game of Life, Risk, and Codenames. So there’s no excuse even if you don’t live with the grandparents.
(See also: The Best Board Games for Kids, from Age 3 to Teens)
15 Old School Games to Play with Your Grandparents
Playing old school games hosts a plethora of benefits and that will add life and value to a senior’s journey towards ageing. Incorporating child-like play into an elderly loved one’s daily routine gives them a stress-relieving activity and a sense of nostalgia all at once. Never underestimate the power of play and what it can do to change a senior’s life for the better.
This article first appeared on Homage, an award-winning personal care solution that provides on-demand holistic home and community-based caregiving and medical services to seniors and adults, allowing them to age and recover with grace, control, and dignity.
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