Home / Retirement / Board games demand social interaction – not silence

Board games demand social interaction – not silence

For generations, and, in the case of chess, for centuries, parlour games have been providing endless hours of entertainment for families and friends alike. Now medical science is demonstrating they improve elderly people’s thinking and memory.

Nothing brings a family together like a good board game. Where a television program demands silence from all in the room, a board game is a catalyst for social interaction, fun and friendly rivalry across the generations.

But there’s more to board games than their entertainment value. University of Edinburgh research shows that they significantly improve memory and logical thinking. And a British medical journal published research showing that the risk of dementia was 15 per cent lower for people regularly playing board games. No wonder US investment guru Warren Buffett, ‘the oracle of Omaha’, once said that he wouldn’t mind going to jail if he had three cell mates that were capable bridge players.

So, what are some of the best board games to get those grey cells working?

  • Scrabble: It stands as a timeless classic among word games, challenging players to create words using letter tiles. Beyond being an enjoyable pastime, it is one of the most taxing on the brain, forcing it to think creatively, flexibly and testing memory (that is if you want the triple word scores). And the highest word score? Caziques with 392 points. Good luck getting a z, q and u in one hand.

    Chess: Often, and rightly, regarded as the ultimate game of strategy, it has captivated minds for centuries. This two-player game simulates a battlefield and, in a very abstract way, requires players to apply military tactics to win. For seniors, engaging in regular chess matches can lead to improved cognitive abilities and mental clarity. It’s also one of the most social board games of all time. Most people at least know the rudiments of chess, and a chess board and the 32 pieces are a very portable. Take a set to the local pub, order a beer and get set up, and an opponent will appear in no time.

    Bingo: There’s a reason that Bingo is a perennial favourite for senior citizen meetings and holiday resorts and cruises that are popular with seniors. Beyond its entertainment value, it’s an enormously social and entertaining experience in large groups. The communal aspect of the game fosters socialisation, providing an opportunity for individuals to connect. And if you win a round of bingo and buy drinks all round, suddenly everyone is a best friend.

    Jigsaw puzzles: Not every board game needs to be social to be worthwhile. Jigsaws, with their interlocking pieces forming a complete picture, are a very relaxing and enjoyable pastime for seniors – particularly on a rainy day when going outside isn’t a good idea. As a bonus, when you do finish the jigsaw, you can frame it and add a lovely piece of artwork to your home. Jigsaw puzzles can range from anything from 100 pieces (you’ll have that done in under an hour) to 25,000-piece monstrosity that will take you weeks and leave you with a sense of total pride when completed.

    Bridge: Warren Buffet’s prison-time killer is a game that combines skill, strategy and teamwork, making it highly competitive and social – with the emphasis on competitive. A trick-taking, card game played by four individuals, bridge is an excellent excuse to organise a weekly gaming session with friends. And there are even competitions. Be warned, though, people good at bridge have an almost supernatural ability to read cards.

    Mahjong: A variation of rummy using tiles with Chinese symbols on them, it has been gathering popularity worldwide. For generations, it has been the go-to game for Chinese seniors, as it offers a near-perfect blend of skill, luck, gambling, courage and fun that makes it easy to sit down and enjoy for hours. If you’re in the mood to try something new and pick up a new board game, then strongly consider giving mahjong a go. The only downside is that the quality and quantity of pieces mean that mahjong sets tend to be expensive.

    Of course, there are thousands upon thousands of board games, from the classic to the modern, and it’s worth looking around (and perhaps joining some clubs) to find your favourite. And perhaps that means you just want to kick back with a game of Monopoly. That’s perfectly fine too. No matter what game you’re playing, it’s still going to do wonders for your mind.

    Print Article

    Podcasts are an ideal way to broaden your horizons

    This popular medium is having growing appeal with retirees as they embrace topics ranging from comedy to health and gardening. Just be careful you don’t become addicted.

    Matthew Sainsbury | 26th Jun 2024 | More
    How to get your retirement back on the right path

    A serious bike accident prematurely ended Mark Gray’s professional career, stripping him of his sense of identity. It took much self-reflection, counselling and time to give his life meaning again.

    Nicholas Way | 26th Jun 2024 | More
    Joining a band is music to the ears of these retirees

    Ageing rock bands are not the only musicians who keep tuning in. New Horizons, an international network of community bands and choral groups with a Sydney branch, is providing an opportunity for those with a musical bent to finally embrace their passion.

    Raewyn Williams | 12th Jun 2024 | More