When most people think about board games, what they usually picture is a high shelf in a closet storing neglected copies of Monopoly, Scrabble and Risk.
Monopoly is a game which was first published in 1936, which many seniors would consider before their time. If you have visited hobby stores recently you may have been surprised by the selection of new board games, which can fill entire stores on their own. The state-of-the-art in board games has developed significantly over the past 82 years.
For seniors who are interested in rediscovering board games, there can be tangible benefits: A 20-year study in South Western France shows that retirees who regularly play board games may be up to 15% less likely to develop dementia. Not everyone can retire in South Western France, but we can all enjoy board games.
Break Free from Monopoly
Euro-style board games, also called eurogames, describe a category of board games that are particularly friendly for new players and seniors alike. These games tend to be fairly short, are designed to be language-independent, and avoid eliminating players before the final score tally at the very end. Popular examples of these games include Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride and Carcassonne.
Fans of Scrabble may also enjoy abstract strategy games like Qwirkle, which is played by arranging rows of large blocks into non-repeating colours and shapes. Unlike Scrabble, Qwirkle does not require small print or memorizing lists of officially recognized 2-letter words.
For seniors who want to spend quality time with competitive grandchildren, cooperative board games like Pandemic and Forbidden Island put all the players together on a team to achieve a common goal. Cooperative board games can also be friendlier and more enjoyable to new players than adversarial games.
Explore Imaginary Worlds
Tabletop games like Dungeons & Dragons are also experiencing a recent surge in popularity, but it’s not just a game for teenagers and college kids. If you played the very first edition of Dungeons & Dragons in 1974 you are likely in your 60s. Beyond that, role playing games provide opportunities to imagine a different version of yourself inhabiting a different world, which can be appealing to seniors who experience reduced mobility. There is even a popular video series on YouTube that follows the adventures of a group of seniors playing Dungeons and Dragons alongside their grandchildren.
Tabletop Role Playing Games released in the past decade tend to be more streamlined and require less rule memorization than their counterparts from the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, which makes exploring imaginary words even more accessible. While the Fifth Edition of Dungeons & Dragons is easier to pick up and play than previous editions, seniors may also enjoy rules-light systems like Dungeon World, Fiasco, and Fate Core which offer more creative flexibility to players.
Which board games and tabletop activities would you recommend for seniors? Feel free to share links in the comments below.