81 Top Games for Seniors and the Elderly: Fun for All Abilities
By Luke Redd
| Last updated
Get ready to play! It's time to learn about the best games for seniors so that you can reap the benefits of having fun. After all, joy, amusement, and mental stimulation are necessary for every senior's overall well-being. And we all have days when we just want to pass a little time by doing something engaging.
Games provide convenient ways to have fun, either alone or as part of a group. They eradicate boredom, relieve stress, and make parties and other social engagements easier, more enjoyable, and less intimidating. They also help exercise our brains. For some people, playing certain types of games might be beneficial for things like mood, memory, concentration, reasoning, and imagination. Games might be especially helpful for your brain if they require you to learn something new.
Plus, countless games can be modified for seniors or elderly people who have physical or cognitive limitations. For example, it's easy to find or create games that have large type, which is good for older people who have vision problems. And if time or attention spans are a concern, many games can be played and completed in less than 30 minutes.
The variety of senior-friendly games that are now available is astonishing. So to help you narrow down the possibilities, we've provided some of the best examples within seven main categories:
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Puzzle, Tile, and Board Games
Tabletop games are fantastic for social gatherings. That's why a lot of seniors turn to this form of entertainment, especially when they want to encourage friends or family members to visit. Plus, at least one scientific study suggests that playing board games might help slow cognitive decline or reduce depression in elderly people.1 And since board games are generally played sitting down, they are good for seniors who have limited mobility.
The best board games for seniors are fun, absorbing, and challenging (without being too complicated). They are also great for multi-generational play. Here are some popular examples:
1. Qwirkle—Mix and match tiles with different shapes and colors, scoring points by completing or adding to lines of the same shapes or colors.
2. Dixit—Out-bluff your opponents while using your imagination to match stories to beautifully illustrated cards.
3. Ticket to Ride—Claim as many North American railway routes as you can by collecting illustrated train cards and reaching more cities than your opponents within a short amount of time.
4. Rummikub—Be the first one to play all of your numbered tiles by placing them in consecutive sequences or groups of the same numbers or colors.
5. Sorry! Sliders—Slide your pawns into home or take out the pawns of your opponents in this twist on the classic Sorry! game that ditches the cards in favor of a mini-shuffleboard type of experience.
6. Hey, That's My Fish!—Use your penguin to grab more fish than your opponents as their penguins try to block your moves while the ice disappears around you.
7. Ubongo—Race against other players as you try to solve puzzles of interlocking geometric shapes in order to grow your treasure of gems.
8. Jenga—Beware of gravity as you try not to be the one who pulls out the wooden block that makes the whole tower come crashing down.
9. Bugs in the Kitchen—Set the path and lure the little scuttling bug into your trap before anyone else.
10. Tsuro—Lay your own tiled path while avoiding the paths of other players that can send you the wrong way or off the board completely.
11. Chronology—Put your historical knowledge to the test by trying to be the first one to build a 10-card timeline based on the correct order of events.
12. Latice—Play all of your tiles before anyone else by matching them on different sides and strategically using sun squares and wind tiles based on what you think your opponents still have in their possession.
13. Cranium—Be the first one to circle the board by successfully solving puzzles and other challenges that will have you acting, guessing, sculpting, sketching, and humming.
14. Backgammon—Beat your opponent by getting lucky, planning your moves, and being the first one to get each of your 15 checkers off the board.
15. Chess—Use your most creative strategies to protect your king while outwitting your opponent and putting his or her king into checkmate.
16. Mahjong—Be the first player to build a winning combination of tiles based on rummy-like groupings of symbols and characters.
17. Checkers—Capture and remove all 12 of your opponent's game pieces before he or she can do the same to you.
18. Dominos—Play all of your domino tiles before the other players by laying them down end-to-end with matching tiles that have already been played.
Did you know that 25 percent of men and 22 percent of women between the ages of 55 and 64 have been video game players (aka "gamers") for more than 25 years?2 It's true. In fact, 38 percent of all 50-plus adults play video games. And 43 percent of gamers over the age of 60 play video games every day.3 So there's clearly a lot to love about this type of entertainment, regardless of your age.
Video games offer a form of visual and auditory engagement that most other kinds of games can't match. Many of them provide truly thrilling experiences as well as opportunities to connect with other players (of all ages). They are downright fun.
But here's something you should definitely know: Some electronic game developers claim that their "brain training" products can improve your brain health and cognitive performance. However, their marketing is often misleading. The science behind brain-training games is controversial at best. Many of the world's top psychologists and neuroscientists say that there is little or no solid evidence to support claims that certain kinds of video games can improve a senior's overall mental faculties.
The truth is that so-called "brain games" may not actually boost your cognitive abilities for everyday life nor prevent or slow down any brain-related diseases. Rather, by playing a game repeatedly, you'll get better at the particular tasks for that game (and possibly other tasks that are very closely related to them). But you won't necessarily get better at doing unrelated tasks in the "real world" outside of the game. If you really want to improve your brain health, you're better off exercising, getting good sleep, and learning new things.
That said, if a video game is completely new to you, then your brain may benefit from the challenge of learning how to play it. And you can't overlook the pure enjoyment factor. After all, having fun should be your top reason for playing any video game.
The most popular types of video games among older adults are card, tile, puzzle, and logic games.3 But a lot of seniors also enjoy strategy, role-playing, and action-oriented games. So try out several different kinds and see what you enjoy.
Most seniors play video games on their laptops or desktop computers. But you can also play games on a smartphone, digital tablet, handheld game console, or TV game console (such as the Nintendo Switch, Sony PlayStation, or Microsoft Xbox). Games for computers and mobile devices can often be downloaded for free or played online at no cost. Here are some electronic games that are especially worth checking out:
19. Bejeweled—Swap bright gems of different shapes and colors in order to form rows of matching gems, earn points, and move to the next level.
20. Candy Crush Saga—Switch around colorful pieces of candy in order to form three-of-a-kind matches and reach a particular goal within a time limit or a fixed number of moves.
21. Snipperclips Plus—Solve all kinds of creative puzzles in this funny game for the Nintendo Switch by interacting with various objects and cutting paper characters into different shapes.
22. Gummy Drop!—Rebuild monuments around the world (virtually, of course) by solving match-three puzzles that feature vibrant gummies in different colors and shapes.
23. 1-2-Switch—Face your opponent instead of the screen while you play various mini games that require you to be physically active and respond to audio cues and "rumble" feedback from the special controllers of the Nintendo Switch.
24. Puyo Puyo Tetris—Quickly rotate and position falling blobs of color or shaped blocks so that they land in places that will help complete a puzzle in this game for the Nintendo Switch.
25. Plants vs. Zombies 2—Grow various kinds of plants in strategic locations in order to defend your home from a horde of brain-eating zombies.
26. Words With Friends 2—Challenge your friends or family to a crossword-style mobile game that's similar to Scrabble.
27. AARP's free online games—Play a huge variety of card, puzzle, word, strategy, sports, and arcade games directly in your web browser.
28. Gametable's free online games—Enjoy easy-to-play games like checkers and tic-tac-toe on your computer or mobile device without any distracting ads.
29. World of Warcraft (WoW)—Take on the role of hero within a huge virtual universe of fantastical characters and environments as you go on an adventurous quest and interact with a massive online community of other players.
30. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim—Go on an expansive quest to defeat a world-eating dragon in this role-playing game that lets you explore its entire virtual world at your own leisure.
31. Civilization—Build a virtual empire that lasts by choosing strategies related to issues like exploration, diplomacy, warfare, and technology.
When it comes to portability, it's hard to beat a deck of cards. After all, card games don't require any electricity. In most cases, aside from cards, the only thing you need is a flat surface (and sometimes a paper and pen). Generation after generation has celebrated card games for their ability to facilitate pressure-free social gatherings, relaxing recreation, and memorable conversations. Whether you play games of chance or strategy (or both), you're likely to have tons of fun. Plus, you can make these games even more accessible by purchasing oversized playing cards, decks with large print, playing card holders, or an automatic card shuffler.
Here are some of the most popular card games among seniors:
32. Gin Rummy—Get all of your cards into sequences (i.e., cards in a consecutive order according to their rank) and/or groups of the same rank before your opponent does.
33. Bridge—Choose a playing partner and work together to defeat another team by making "bids" and winning "tricks."
34. Canasta—Play this rummy-style game with a partner, scoring points by collecting sets of cards that have the same rank.
35. Cribbage—Use a special peg board (optional) to keep score as you try to win by being the first player to reach 121 points.
36. Spades—Partner up with somebody and play together as you "bid" on the strength of your hands and get as close as you can to that estimate when winning "tricks."
37. Crazy Eights—Get rid of all your cards before the other players by laying down eights or cards of a specified suit.
38. Old Maid—Discard your cards as quickly as possible by laying down pairs of matching cards until one person is left holding the card designated as the Old Maid.
39. Pinochle—Exchange and collect various combinations of cards in order to score as many points as possible in accordance with an opening "bid."
40. Snap—Win every card in a deck by frequently being the first one to yell "Snap!" when a player turns a card face up that matches another player's upturned card somewhere else on the table.
41. Euchre—Team up with a partner and win at least three out of five "tricks" in this fast-moving game that is similar to bridge.
42. Go Fish—Collect as many four-of-a-kinds as you can by asking opponents for cards of a particular rank or "fishing" from the undealt deck when they don't have them.
43. War—Collect all the cards in a deck by winning enough battles in which your card outranks your opponent's.
44. UNO—Be the first player to get rid of all your cards by matching them, one by one, to the upturned color or number cards on the top of the deck when it's your turn.
45. Phase 10—Complete 10 hands of rummy-style play, each one requiring you to collect a different grouping of cards or risk being left behind.
46. No Thanks!—Try to get the lowest score by constantly weighing the potential consequences of picking up a particular card or playing one of your chips.
Sometimes, the only things you need to have fun are a few dice, a pad of paper, and a pencil. Like cards, dice are ultra-portable. And dice games offer the chance for just as much enjoyment and social bonding. Plus, there's something uniquely satisfying about rolling the dice and watching them all land in exactly the way you had hoped. Try popular dice games like:
47. Bunco—Win as many points as you can by rolling numbers that match each numbered round of play.
48. Mexico—Be the last player standing by avoiding the lowest roll in each round.
49. Liar's Dice—Outlast your opponents by successfully deceiving them and recognizing when they are bluffing you.
50. Farkle—Race your opponents to a predetermined scoring level by constantly deciding between taking a risk or playing it safe.
51. Yahtzee—Defeat your competition by rolling the highest-scoring combinations you can.
52. Go Nuts!—Score as many points as possible by rolling acorns, staying away from cars, and avoiding rolls of all squirrels, lest you get chased by barking dogs (aka your crazy opponents).
53. Can't Stop—Beat the other players by taking risks, getting lucky, and avoiding the trap of being too much of a gambler for your own good.
Word and Number Games
A lot of seniors enjoy keeping their math or language skills sharp by playing fun games or solving satisfying puzzles related to words or numbers. Great options are available for playing solo or as part of a group. Consider these examples:
54. Crossword Puzzles—Solve clues to fill out a grid of squares with interconnected words and phrases.
55. Word Search—Discover and circle all of the hidden words in a grid of letters.
56. Sudoku—Fill out a partially completed grid of numbers so that each row, column, and sub-grid contains all of the numbers from one to nine.
57. Kakuro—Fill out each white square of the puzzle with a number from one to nine so that the sums of the entries in each row or column match the clues associated with them.
58. Scrabble—Outscore your opponents by strategically forming new words or adding to existing ones on a crossword-style board.
59. Boggle—Shake a tray of 16 letter dice and spot more words in the randomized grid of letters than your opponent does before the time runs out.
60. Scattergories—Partner up and defeat the other teams by coming up with creative answers that all match a specific category, contain the same first letter, and won't be thought of by your opponents.
61. Balderdash—Fool the other players by trying to make them believe that your fake answers or definitions represent the truth about things like obscure words, people, and movies.
Indoor Games for Large Groups
Many nursing homes and assisted living communities regularly organize fun games that large groups of residents can participate in. The best activities directors try to keep things fresh by changing things up on a frequent basis. In fact, most games in this category are homemade and just require an investment of time and creativity to pull together. You can put your own spin on any of them. Plus, many of them can be used as fun party games for seniors or elderly residents who are celebrating birthdays or other milestones. Use the following examples as inspiration:
62. Bingo—Be the first player to match five numbers in a row (or in another pattern) in this popular game of chance.
63. Smile Toss—Prepare to laugh when playing this great balloon game for seniors. Draw a smiley face on a balloon. Sit in a circle with the other players. Have someone be in charge of playing some recorded music and stopping it at random times. As the music plays, pass the balloon around the circle to each other. If you're left holding the balloon when the music stops, you must try not to smile for at least 10 seconds. If you do smile, you'll have to leave the circle. The last person remaining wins the game.
64. The Best (or Worst) Advice My Parents Ever Gave Me—Choose someone to be the judge. Pass out slips of paper and have everyone write down the best advice they ever received from their mom or dad. Have the judge collect all the answers, read them out loud, and select the top three. Then get each of those three winners to write down the worst advice they ever received from either of their parents. Have the judge collect them, read them aloud, and select the final winner.
65. Fact or Fiction?—Get some books that are all about strange or funny facts, such as 1,227 Quite Interesting Facts to Blow Your Socks Off or Mind = Blown: Amazing Facts About This Weird, Hilarious, Insane World. Select five weird facts from the books, make up five other fake facts, and randomly number them from one to 10. Pass out a sheet of paper to each player that is numbered from one to 10. One by one, read each strange (or fake) fact out loud and ask the players to write down whether it is fact or fiction. To determine the winner(s), collect the sheets and find out who had the most correct guesses.
66. The Price Is Right—Go to the store and buy four common, lower-priced items as well as four mid- to higher-priced items to use as prizes, being sure to write down their prices. Put everyone's name in a bowl. Draw four names to become the first contestants. Showcase your first item and have them each guess its price. The person who is closest to the actual price without going over is the winner of that round. Draw another name from the bowl to replace that winner. Continue the process for the other common items until you have four winners. Then, have each of the four winners guess the total of the four higher-priced items to determine the final winner of those prizes.
67. Photo Puzzle Race—Get large color prints on heavy stock of various photos, preferably of the people who will be playing the game. Cut each of the photo prints into relatively small puzzle pieces. Split players up into different teams and have them compete to see which team can solve its puzzle the fastest.
68. Name That Tune—Choose a selection of songs that will create feelings of nostalgia for the seniors who will be playing the game. Gather everyone together a day ahead of time to listen to each of the songs and to learn the artists and song titles. On game day, start playing one of the songs, pausing the music after a few seconds. See if anyone can guess what it is. Keep playing and pausing the song until someone makes a correct guess. Do the same thing for the remaining songs. Give prizes to each of the winners.
69. Year of Invention—Collect 10 everyday objects and find out when they were first invented. Put them all on a table, numbered from one to 10. Hand out sheets of paper that are numbered the same way and have each player write down the year they think each object was invented. (Make sure that nobody has access to an Internet-enabled device.) Score each player's sheet: six points for correctly guessing the exact year, three points for being within 50 years, or one point for being within 100 years. The player with the highest point total wins the game.
Don't overlook the benefits of physical games. For seniors who still have good or decent mobility, getting outside can provide opportunities for enjoyable exercise that boosts overall health and well-being. For instance, many older adults who are in good shape enjoy playing games of tennis. But you don't necessarily have to do something quite so active. Here are several other popular outdoor games:
70. Shuffleboard—Win by sliding your colored disks into the highest scoring zones and strategically knocking out the disks of your opponent.
71. Pickleball—Outscore your opponent by using a solid paddle to hit a lightweight ball over a net while avoiding tennis-like faults.
72. Bocce—Roll more of your balls closer to the target than your opponent.
73. Water Balloon Toss—Partner with someone else and beat other teams by tossing a water balloon back and forth to each other over an increasing distance without breaking it.
74. Croquet—Be the first one to hit your balls against the center peg by knocking them through a six-hoop course in the proper sequence.
75. Beach Ball Volley—Team up with someone else and try to keep a beach ball in the air longer than any other team as you volley it back and forth to each other over a distance that keeps growing.
76. Lawn Bowling—Roll special balls that are designed to curve along their path, choosing your shots carefully in order to get your balls closer to the jack than your opponent's.
77. Horseshoes—Outscore your competition by tossing your horseshoes and getting them to land closer to the stake than your opponent's horseshoes.
78. Badminton—Win points by hitting a shuttlecock over a net with a special racquet, forcing the opposing player(s) to miss the shuttlecock or hit it out of bounds or into the net.
79. Flying Disc Target Toss—Be the first to score 21 points by hitting various targets with a Frisbee-like disc.
80. Bean Bag Toss—Score 21 points before your opponents by getting your bean bags to land in the hole or within a designated target area.
81. Wiffle Ball—Play a miniature version of baseball, scoring more runs than your opponent over the course of six or more innings.
Get Your Game On!
There's no age limit on the enjoyment of playing games. You deserve to relax, cut loose, and enjoy the many benefits that a game of chance or skill can provide. So have fun and let your vitality shine each and every day.
- 1 BMJ Open, "Playing board games, cognitive decline and dementia: a French population-based cohort study," website last visited on May 8, 2018.
- 2 Entertainment Software Association, 2019 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry, website last visited on June 11, 2019.
- 3 AARP, "Video Games: Attitudes and Habits of Adults Age 50-plus," website last visited on May 8, 2018.
- JMIR Serious Games, "What Older People Like to Play: Genre Preferences and Acceptance of Casual Games," website last visited on May 8, 2018.
- Popular Science, "Can exercising the mind improve our abilities, or is it just another self-improvement fantasy?," website last visited on May 8, 2018.
- Stanford Center on Longevity, "A Consensus on the Brain Training Industry from the Scientific Community (Summary)," website last visited on May 8, 2018.