Fun and healthy wellness game ideas for older adults and seniors
Proactively manage your health or a loved one's with these game night and activity ideas
Older adults can promote healthy aging by staying active in mind and body. Online games can keep your mind sharp, and offline physical games promote activity and physical health. Together, they can reduce physical or cognitive limitations imposed by age, loneliness, and sedentary lifestyles.
Group exercise classes and indoor games for large groups
Physical health is critical for older adults. Anything from chair exercise classes to yoga, card games, bocce ball, tennis, badminton, and pickleball encourages social interaction, relieves stress, and promotes overall health.
Promote dexterity in your arms, keep hand-eye coordination sharp, and give yourself some mental stimulation with art classes. They don't have to be good — just creating and being with others is enough to benefit our minds.
In the later years of WWII, avid painter Winston Churchill quietly encouraged then-General Dwight D. Eisenhower to take up painting to relieve stress. Everyone could tell the stress of war was wearing him down. Eisenhower took up painting and continued through his White House years and into retirement. He later encouraged many others in his inner circle to take up painting, too.
Hiking and walking clubs
Sunshine and being outdoors may be the best way for older adults to promote well-being. The sound of nature, trees, birds, and wildlife combined with stimulating walking environments, visual interest, and sunshine is a wonderful way to relieve stress. The Japanese have a word for this: shinrin-yoku, which roughly translates to "forest bathing".
Even people with limited mobility can benefit just by sitting outside in dense woods and trees.
Brain games and trivia night with family members
Older adults at risk of dementia, memory loss, or other cognitive declines can benefit from playing games with family members who know them best. In assisted living communities, people's day-to-day familiarity may blind the staff and others from sensing small week-to-week or even month-to-month changes in a person's overall health.
By playing games that test a person's ability to discern shapes, colors, and numbers, or just answer questions in trivia games that test memory recall and knowledge, you'll be able to spend time with your loved ones, stay connected, and detect when they may be struggling or improving mentally and physically.
Track your nutrition
Food is medicine, and tracking daily nutrition — even if it's just in a paper notebook — can be a great way to identify trends (and problems, if they're honest and don't skip recording desserts).
Doctors may even be able to use the logs to help seniors reduce their blood pressure, control weight, or monitor for other health issues.
Visit a garden conservatory
If nature bathing in the woods isn't possible — like if you live in a desert — visit a garden conservatory. Many older adults will see benefits from exploring new species of fauna. Better yet, ask if they need volunteers to help them garden, plant, water, and care for the environment.
If a garden conservatory isn't nearby, visit museums. Museums also often ask for volunteers and may have outdoor areas requiring landscaping and tending.
Swim at your YMCA or community pool
Many Y's and senior community centers offer water aerobics programs. These may not look like much strenuous exercise, but that's a key component to keeping people physically active. Water aerobics provides light resistance to arms and legs, inducing whole-body stabilization and core strength to stay afloat.
Even elderly people with limited mobility can participate because the water provides gentle resistance, unlike walking or running, which can be hard on people's knees or feet.
Create a home gym (on a budget)
If you're not near a gym, build your own. It doesn't have to be outfitted with thousands of dollars in equipment. Some dumbbells at a weight appropriate for you or your family, a kettlebell, foam roller, and resistance bands can go a long way in weight training at your home.
The strength, balance, and agility exercise at just half an hour a day can become a useful new hobby that helps older adults stay sharp and prevent falls.
Checkers, cards, and board games
Checkers, chess, card games, and other board games are casual, useful games that help us make new friends, improve thinking and strategy, and add variety to our daily routine. Even solo games like crosswords can reduce cognitive limitations and memory loss.
We're big fans of Bunco, a great dice game for senior centers because it promotes social interaction by design, moving around from table to table, and gives plenty of time for conversation.
Mexican Train Dominoes is another of our favorites. Mexican Train is a domino game that enhances social life, provides mental stimulation, promotes dexterity, placing objects around the table, and more.
Among the most popular card games for seniors, Uno is an easy one, simply because the colors and cards are bright, visible, and easy to play with two or more players.
Provide child or pet care
Being around kids is a great way to feel young again.
If the grandkids are older, consider pet care. Local animal shelters always need volunteers to house foster pets for short-term visits until they can be adopted. (Foster pets are often young kittens and puppies or animals with manageable medical issues that require routine.)
Not only are puppies fun (most of the time), they provide health benefits for seniors struggling with loneliness or lack of purpose.
Senior sports league
Elderly people in sports leagues benefit from significant improvements in their social life and physical activity. Sports leagues provide a structure where some parts of daily life can interfere with groups getting together for impromptu exercise. Even in a senior community where someone has a single workout partner, a sports league is more stable as more people join. They're also an excellent way to improve cognitive abilities.
Build a Computer
Want to learn more about computers? Ask a grandchild to help build a PC with them. Kids and teens interested in video games prefer to build a PC because it’s cheaper and has more customization options.
While many seniors may prefer to avoid the intense, high-end video games available today, there are many they might enjoy, including our own Bunco
and Mexican Train Dominoes
Explore online courses
Older adults don't need to stop learning simply because they've gone through school already. If your local senior center doesn't provide classes on computers, drawing, painting, or exercise, visit online courses through iTunes University, YouTube channels of leading institutions.
You can also call the local junior college to see if they'll let people sit in on classes (without earning credit) for free. Many will, and the wisdom of older adults benefits them and the students.
Make a scrapbook
Digital photos are great for quick snaps and sharing. But do you still have all the digital photos you took even a few years ago? Lost passwords, lost devices, switching operating systems, and sheer time can render digital photos moot.
Instead, pick some of your favorites and print them out to organize in a scrapbook.
It's also an excellent way to preserve photos. Barring fire, flood, or some other disaster, printed photos will likely be around decades from now for grandchildren and great-grandchildren to discover as they age.
Promote healthy aging online with free games for seniors
There are countless games and fun activities to keep people busy. But when the day is short on time, grab a laptop or any mobile device and check out PlayBunco.com
. Both offer fun games that can be played online with no downloads or confusing setup. Just visit the site and start playing.