For centuries, dating back to ancient history, games have been an important piece of all cultures and one of the oldest forms of human social interaction. They have acted as cultural and social bonding events, as teaching tools, and as markers of social status in some societies. The 15th century saw the rise of card games, with court cards made to represent European royalty. Evolving ever so swiftly, card games continued to evolve with new games being created in every part of the world and shared during migration patterns. Even today, popular card games that have withheld the test of time have been taught and passed down amongst generations, enjoyed by many in every corner of the world.
Not only are games a way to have fun, they also have excellent benefits that range from socialization to mental and physical health benefits for all ages, but especially for older adults. Games often exercise the mind, which is as important as maintaining physical fitness and strength in older age. Throughout our lives, our brain is responsible for keeping us happy, and as we age, mental health is often a major part of being able to live independently. Games and other related activities can provide socialization, which can ward away feelings of loneliness and depression; stimulation of the brain, which can help keep the brain alert and functioning; and movement, which can improve dexterity in the hands and fingers.
Dave Schumacher, resident and President of the Residence Council at the Blair Towers for approximately two years, has integrated many games and other activities into the lives of the Blair Towers residents since becoming President, sharing his love for games with his friends and neighbors.
“One of the things that I started as President was playing several different card games with a group of residents every Monday afternoon around 1:30 p.m.,” Dave explained. “We’ve been playing as a group for about one-and-a-half years, and it’s like clockwork!” he laughed. “If you’re not there, they’ll be calling you and asking if you’re coming down to play.”
Dave, who comes from a family that has a long-running tradition of playing games together, wanted to bring that same joy to the Blair Towers.
“My family and I love to play games together,” he explained. “My sister, her husband and my niece will get together once a week from September to May to play different games. We switch locations each week, whether its at my sister’s house, here at the Towers, or at my niece’s home. It’s always a great time and a lot of fun!”
Recognizing the good the games bring to the residents, Dave encourages bystanders and those even slightly interested to join in as well.
“We’ve had people walk by and stop to watch us play, and eventually they’ll ask if they can join in. And to them we say, ‘pull up a chair and we’ll tell you the rules!’” he said.
Card games, like rummy, pinochle, and more, help improve memory and help keep the brain refreshed against age-related ailments like dementia. The stimulation the brain receives via the numbers, letter, colors, and more enhances brain function and keeps the brain alert. Not to mention, it can bring lots of entertainment and fun! Some of the group’s favorite games include card games like 15 Card, Left, Center, Right, and more. The fast-paced Left, Center, Right Game requires players to be on their toes when it comes to listening to the game’s directions, turns, and results.
“We enjoy those games a lot,” Dave shared. “We sit around and talk and joke with each other, we just have a great time overall. It’s very fun.”
Another popular game at the Blair Towers, Bingo, which is held on Wednesday and Friday evenings, often brings a large crowd and provides even more socialization and fun to be had.
“I know one resident in particular where the only time she would leave her apartment was to come play games,” Dave explained. “She would come down to play Bingo and some other games and she really enjoyed it. It was her chance to get out and mingle with people also, which is always good.”
Not only does Bingo offer an opportunity for socialization, but it can also reduce feelings of loneliness and increase feelings of wellbeing as players often play in large or small groups. Bingo is also a game that heightens the senses as it progresses, so it’s great for older adults to keep mentally active and their sense sharpened.
Overall, the residents at the Blair Towers see the benefits of the games they play, and have committed themselves to having some fun. “Some of our players have even gone as far as to change or schedule their doctor’s or other appointments around the times we play our games so they never miss a round,” Dave laughed.
Although playing games in groups can be a fun and exciting experience, there are many games and puzzles that you can play that offer the same great benefits. Word puzzles, like word searches, crosswords and the like, can get the brain buzzing and give the mind a work out! Word puzzles can be completed individually at your convenience, which can sometimes work better for your schedule and other commitments.
Other individual puzzles and games, like Sudoku, offer a serious brain workout for people of all ages and abilities. Using logic, problem solving, and pattern recognition, the skills that are developed with Sudoku can help older adults with their problem-solving skills, as well as provide them with a great sense of accomplishment that can be hard to achieve in other activities later in life.
There’s nothing wrong with having a little fun! Today, why not play a game with your friends, family, or neighbor? Gather some cards, some friends, and keep the fun flowing. Remember the fun memories of yesteryear alive with every toss of the dice, flipped card, and burst of laughter.