Best Indoor Games For The Elderly To Boost Memory (2022 update)

Close Up Of Senior Woman Relaxing With Jigsaw Puzzle At Home

Inspired by my lovely grandma, we’ve looked at the best indoor games for the elderly to keep them entertained and boost brain power. This article lists games to play alone or with friends, free puzzles online, brain training and games to buy. Enjoy – and happy winning (or not, it is the taking part that counts after all!).

My grandma was an absolute whiz at playing cards, and I’ve got the fondest memories of playing rummy with her. I’m not sure if it was the card playing ability that helped her stay mentally sharp until the end, but I’m sure it helped (she even wrote her first book at age 72, but that’s another story!).

If you’re looking for gift inspiration then read our article on the best gift ideas for older adults. It’s full of unique present ideas – hope you find it useful!

Benefits of Playing Games for the Elderly

It’s not just physical exercise our bodies need – mental exercise challenges our brain and keeps it young.

Even 5 minutes a day of puzzle games can boost your brain function. People who play games are more likely to stay mentally sharp and those who increase game playing during their 70s are certainly more likely to maintain certain thinking skills as they grow older.

With dementia becoming more of a worry as we get older, playing games can be a valid exercise to keep your brain focused and sharp. Here are some more benefits that we can experience from playing games as we get older.

– Exercising the mind. By boosting memory and cognition we are helping to prevent dementia
– Giving us something to focus on
– Boosting mental health and having a positive impact on wellbeing and mood
– Increasing attention to detail and improving concentration
– Staying agile and learning a new skill
– Social interaction (virtual or actual)
– Intergenerational fun (just like me playing cards with my grandma)

We have some helpful articles on dementia if you want to know more. From answering your questions with a dementia Admiral Nurse, to the best puzzles for dementia as well as calming and fun activities to play.

Sit Down Games

Whilst it’s important to keep moving as we age, sitting down and taking time out is key too! So sit down games are a great idea.

A fun game like this might include puzzles, crosswords or board games. Multi player or one player, they can also be adapted depending on difficulty, and rules can be adjusted wherever necessary.

Which means that sit down games that can be enjoyed around a table are a great idea for those who may struggle to be involved with more complicated games.

So without further ado, here are our favourite indoor games for the elderly to play – solo or with 2+ players.

Board Games For The Elderly

It’s not all about the latest game on a tablet, playing physical ones we know well does just as much for cognitive function.

A much loved game in my household has always been Scrabble – my parents got given this for their wedding 47 years ago and they still use it to this day (my mum claims my dad wins despite her always beating him!).

Scrabble is a great example of games for increasing brain power. Starting from two people, it can have a good number of players, can be played socially around the table and can be a good way to boost your vocabulary memory.

If you’re not familiar with the premise, players take seven tiles and need to make a word from them. The higher scoring the better! Each go, your word needs to link with another on the board so it really make you think.

And are two letter words allowed in Scrabble? That depends who you’re playing with (as some people think it’s a cop-out!). If they are, you could Google 2 letter Scrabble words to see what you can make.

It might be an idea to get a dictionary too though! Although make sure you’re all using it fairly. I remember my sister using a dictionary to find the best Scrabble words that start with Z. She ended up with Zila which was high scoring but she admitted she hadn’t got a clue what it meant. It might have been winning, but was it ethical?!

We also like this large letter Scrabble, a good option if your parents’ eyesight is suffering.

Scrabble Fridge Magnets

OK, not quite a board game but whilst we’re on the subject of word games, Scrabble fridge magnets are a great shout for one player. These fridge magnet words take the classic game into daily life, and can be used to play the game, leave a cute message, write a shopping list or help them remember something important.

Here are some other word games for the elderly that we like.

Bananagrams

Here’s a strange question for you – do you want to play a word game shaped like a banana? Course you do!

Enter Bananagrams. This word game takes less time than Scrabble and is funnier whilst also getting the brain powering.

There are banana puns a-plenty with this word game. To start, you share tiles out between the players (after saying ‘split’), and then have to make a mini Scrabble-esque board of your own, using your own letters. Finished all your letters? Shout ‘banana’. Take another letter? Shout ‘peel’.

The beauty of Bananagrams is that it can also be played solo. How many words can your loved one make out of the 144 tiles?

Bananagrams is a word game that doesn’t take as much time as Scrabble. Yes, it has a strange name but it’s fun, fast and gets the brain powering!

Another plus is that you can also buy Big Letter Bananagrams which is good for older people with partial vision. Plus it’s small (doesn’t come in a box but a banana shaped and sized soft pouch) so doesn’t take up space.

One of the best indoor games for the elderly in our opinion. The Bananagrams website gives you instructions on getting started.

Big Boggle

Boggle brings back memories of my childhood, trying to beat the clock and find as many words as possible. This game really transcends the generations – if someone likes word games, it’s for them regardless of age. Shake the letters in the Boggle cube, turn over the sand dial and go!

If you’re looking for easy word games to improve memory recall, Big Boggle is it. This can be played solo or multi player. Featuring a grid of lettered dice, players have to find as many words as possible using adjacent letters as the time ticks away! It gets the brain thinking which is just what we want to keep memory function and aid keeping dementia at bay.

The extra large dice on this version make it easier for elderly hands to handle (it’s not as tricky to pick up for seniors with arthritis for example). Plus, it’s a neat and compact game that can be easily packed up and put away – or sent as a small but entertaining gift.

Logic Board Game

This article could have been called ‘bring back the games of our childhood’! You don’t need to re-write the wheel when it comes to the best games for elderly, look at what’s in your games drawer and give it some love. This also means that grandchildren should be familiar with the puzzles too, and can play – and that all helps to boost endorphins and make people feel happy.

First up is Connect Four. This large board game encourages the players to uses logic to win. It seems easy but actually you need to think strategically – how can you get four in a row? The players each take a colour (red or yellow) and take it in turns to place in the grid. Do you focus on blocking your opponent or going for gold yourself?

You can get travel versions – great if your parent wants to play by themselves (yes, even Connect 4 translates to a solo game needing skill!) but beware the pieces are small and fiddly so it’s not ideal if your parent has arthritic hands. Or has a little dog for company – you don’t want them swallowing one of the pieces by mistake!

Logic puzzles, are ideal for older people, as it’s all about lateral thinking which tests the brain’s ability to think outside the box and create new solutions.

Chess

Chess is the ultimate game of logic, and a great game to improve memory. This classic board game can be played in a multitude of different ways.

A classic chess set like this is a good idea for a parent who is familiar with chess, likes to play the traditional way and has someone (family, friend or live-in carer) to play with.

After watching The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix recently, I was inspired to play chess with my husband. He’s much much better than me, but that didn’t matter, it was just fun to have time to focus on a game vs a device! Chess and brain power go hand in hand, you really have to think (whether that’s remembering how each piece can move, or what your next move should be). Whatever your ability, chess is an ideal logic puzzle.

Taking it up a notch, or in the absence of a chess partner at home, is this chess computer. That’s right – it’s actually a computer that can play chess.

How it works is by the computer guessing the human player’s move, and so deciding its own moves based on this logic and strategy. A small in-built screen will state the move it wishes to make, and you will need to read this and move it for them. It can help people improve their game, as it will never make a mistake.

We can’t talk about classic brain games without mentioning Monopoly which uses tactics and logic to win. We’ve included the classic version of this multi player game below, but there’s hundreds to choose from, such as this Roald Dahl illustrated game which is perfect for playing with grandchildren.

Just make sure you’re not overly competitive – I’ve had many games of Monopoly end when the board has been turned over, money and properties spilling onto the floor after one of us thought another was playing unfairly. Not very sportsmanlike it has to be said!

One Player Board Games

Get competitive against yourself with one player board games. It’s amazing how quickly you can improve, and the biggest plus of these puzzles is that you don’t have to wait for someone else to play. Just pick it up when you’re in the mood and go!

I’ve got the most lovely memories of Solitaire marble game. Someone very special to me used to have a beautiful wooden carved set with blue marbles, and I’d always want to play it at her house. I’d compete with my siblings to see who could get to that elusive one marble in the middle the quickest.

That’s the game – hop each marble over each other until there’s only one remaining. The closer you can get it to the middle, the better. Sometimes you smash it and other times it just doesn’t work! Once you improve, time yourself. It’s that classic game featuring memory and strategy – sometimes the oldies really are the best.

This set with large coloured marbles has the added bonus of looking nice, whilst being easy enough to grip for older hands.

Another game which you surely have in the cupboard is Dominoes. I know, I know, it is usually for two players (or more) but this number game can be played alone.

If played solo, make sure all the tiles are facing down and then choose from them at each go. The numbers on each domino tile are called ‘pips’, and you need to match the next tile up with the same number of pips as the previous. You’ll need a large table though – all those tiles together will snake across the surface!

We like this classic set of large dominoes for the elderly.

There are some amazing products to make life easier for older adults. We’ve rounded up our favourite aids to help your parent stay independent and safe at home.

Brain Training Games

Brain training games for seniors come in lots of different shapes and sizes.

My dad is a sudoku legend – he always manages to complete the ‘fiendish’ version in the newspaper. This daily challenge is something he enjoys but on a deeper level it can help to keep his brain engaged, active and thinking. Just what he needs now he’s entering retirement. 

Sudoku is made up of a grid of 9 x 9 boxes. The aim is to fill each box with the numbers 1 to 9, but no one line (horizontal or vertical) can replicate a number.

Depending on the level of difficulty (you usually get easy, hard and very hard – eeek!), there will be some numbers printed in some of the squares. Use these as a springboard to work out number placement.

Once you’ve got the hang of it, start timing it! Can you get a sub-ten minute Sudoku?

I love seeing my dad’s workings out scribbled around his Sudoku puzzle. Give them this book of 2,500 brain training puzzles and keep them busy!

If they prefer to visualise each number eventuality (and not have to write it in and then cross a mistake out) then this wooden board is a winner. It’s a blank Sudoku grid which comes with a booklet of 320 sudoku puzzles at three levels of difficulty. Choose the puzzle, input the correct numbers to start and there you go. Perfect for a sudoku fan looking for some brain training!

If your parent prefers patterns to words, then this logic puzzle for adults is a great alternative. A real-life version of the Tetris computer game, the player needs to apply logic to make the pieces fit. This brand makes lots of versions of various difficulties. They’re all bright and eye-catching, and can help to boost brain power and while away the hours.

Mexican Train Game

I was introduced to this by my in-laws and was hooked! A pimped up version of dominoes, it requires skill and strategy to win – be prepared for your competitive edge to come out!

With Mexican Train, up to four players choose seven tiles each. You take it in turns to place a tile down on your own route (for your train) or another player’s (if you really can’t go elsewhere, as you don’t want to help them out too much), but if you can’t go you need to pick up – and you can’t go until you find a tile that you can put on your route.

Games are generally short and sweet but they’re addictive so you can’t just play one (take it from me!).

Memory Games For The Elderly

Memory games can be as easy or as complicated as necessary, there’s a level to suit every ability. They’re great activities to improve the memory in seniors, at a time when it may be diminishing.

Memory games for seniors vary from word puzzles such as crosswords, number puzzles such as sudoku or card games involving matching the pairs. Here’s our pick of the best brain exercises for seniors.

Matching Card Memory Games

There is something quite special about this memory game – the excitement when you remember where the pair is! Your elderly parent can play matching card games (also known as association games) solo for free online.

Another great card memory game is this one featuring flags. Flex yourself mentally and try to remember which flag belongs to which country – it’s no easy task and is sure to get conversation flowing!

Another bonus is that matching card games are good for cognitive exercise and stimulation. Which means they’re proven to be powerful in helping with the care of people with dementia.

This set is by Relish, which research and develop a range of activities for people living with dementia. There are 18 pairs to match, featuring clear and beautifully illustrated images. As well as matching cards (otherwise known as pairs), you can also play snap and full house. You can buy it on Amazon here.

Games aren’t the only activities for the elderly. Check out our article for some inspiration on ways to keep your parents busy and entertained at home here!

Free Online Brain Games

There are many different free online memory games for seniors. We rate Memozor and Lumiosity – all you need to do here is sign up to access three Lumosity free games a day. Or flex their brain power and print out these crossword puzzles.

Missing Item

This memory game isn’t online, and can easily be played at home, in a care home or even virtually over video call.

It will bring back memories of The Generation Game (google it if you’re not old enough to remember!) which is sure to make your loved one smile.

Essentially, missing item is a simple free game where you lay out an array of items on a tray.

After a minute, the tray is covered with a cloth. You then write a list of all the items you remember on the tray. Sounds easy but it really isn’t! There’s always going to be something that’s on the tip of your tongue but you just can’t remember it. It’s a bit like the ‘my grandmother went shopping’ game. Sometimes the free ones really are the best!

Another free memory game is the category game. This adaptable game is simple and just requires you to write out as many words that fit within a set category. For example, listing all the colours you can think of in one minute / listing animals beginning with a certain letter etc.

Card Games For The Elderly

A simple deck of cards can entertain someone for hours – there’s gin rummy, whist, go fish, snap, even solitaire.

These card games for older adults are familiar but also help to improve cognitive skills and memory power. Playing card games is not just down to luck – they improve memory as require a huge amount of logic, reasoning, strategy and concentration.

As we get older, our vision (and hand grip) can get worse. Which is why we like larger sized playing cards – they are easier to see and hold onto, ideal for partially sighted seniors.

A group of elderly people playing cards

Large Deck Of Cards

As we get older, our vision (and hand grip) can get worse. Which is why we like larger sized playing cards – they are easier to see and hold onto, ideal for partially sighted seniors.

This set of classic playing cards has been adapted for the partially sighted. It comes with the 52 cards (and jokers) you would expect to find, in larger form (the cards measure roughly double the usual height and width of regular playing cards).

My grandma who I mentioned at the beginning of this article had some jumbo playing cards, which helped her keep playing her favourite games.

If your parent struggles to hold the cards, then a playing card holder could an easy solution. We like this wooden playing card holder.

Bingo For The Elderly

Who doesn’t love bingo? It’s even got the royal stamp of approval, after the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were drafted in as bingo callers at a nursing home during lockdown, helping to keep up the spirits of residents.

The old bingo halls around the UK show its popularity dating back to the 60s, making it a good game for reminisence too.

Bingo keeps players guessing, and can involve as little people or as many as possible. Play it with one other person, or make it bigger and play virtually over video. As the royals showed, it’s also a great idea for games for the elderly in a care home. 

Find this bingo machine here for a DIY game!

How To Play Bingo

The beauty of this interactive game is that it’s easy to follow. Everyone has a card with a row of numbers (called a bingo ticket). As the bingo caller calls out a number, players tick it off their ticket. The aim of the game is to be the first to cross off all your numbers – and shout BINGO!

If you have been inspired by William and Kate, this bingo machine and card set gives the same experience as the bingo hall (90 numbers), so it might take a while to get your full house! It definitely brings the bingo hall round to your table..

Or just buy some bingo tickets and call out numbers for a cheaper way to play!

Games are a great way to help your parents stay mentally sharp – but they can take up space in the home! If you are helping your parents to declutter their home, then read our expert tips. Decluttering is a great way to help older adults stay safe (reducing clutter can reduce the risk of falls) or helpful to do before downsizing.

The Best Jigsaw Puzzles For The Elderly

Jigsaw puzzles can stimulate the mind whilst also helping older people relax, as they will focus on one thing and engage their brain in a singular activity.

My mum actually recommended the Ravensburger jigsaw puzzles. Lockdown kickstarted a renewed passion for jigsaws, and now the dining table at home is often covered with one. She recently got one that’s a photo of her grandchildren which gave her extra impetus to complete!

But back to the Ravensburger games. She rates them as they’re large enough to be a real challenge (this is a 1000 piece one!) and form lovely pictures. This colourful jigsaw puzzle of a bookshop is perfect for your favourite book worm.

Jigsaws For Dementia

If your loved one has Alzheimer’s or dementia, then we can 100% recommend the Relish range of jigsaw puzzles. Specially crafted for people living with cognitive impairment, they come in varying levels of difficulty (13, 35 and 63 pieces) and have a range of evocative pictures – from animals to striking landscapes to choose from.

We’re a huge fan of Relish and what the company stands for, you can find out more about what they offer and why here.

Quizzes For The Elderly

Games and quizzes are a brilliant way to engage your mind and keep it active, as it involves testing a person’s ability to engage, react and think.

Logic puzzles, for example, are ideal for older people, as is lateral thinking. Lateral thinking, in particular, tests the brain’s ability to think outside the box and create new solutions.

Games as simple as saying the months of the year in alphabetical order are a great way to test your brain. It sounds like simple stuff, but this challenges your brain to think in a different way, and come up with new ideas.

Any logic puzzle that involves problem solving, looking for number patterns, for example, can enhance your brain skills. The skills developed with this game help older adults to assess their decision making, which can aid them in real life, too.

General trivia is not only a great talking point, but can be a great way to boost the brain’s cognitive functions and memory, especially if you then test yourself later on. Keeping your brain healthy needn’t be boring and repetitive. Whether you prefer puzzles, meditation or concentration-based games, there’ll be a game for you.

Games For People With Dementia

It is important to take a bit of time to choose the right game to play with someone who has dementia. Here are some tips:

– Choose the right level of game to avoid causing frustration or being seen as patronising
– Give them a choice of two or three games if possible
– Talk about games that they use to play in their childhood to give you some ideas
– Choose visually colourful or sticking games
– Choose larger scale versions if possible with pieces that are easier to hold and see
– Avoid overly competitive or complex games

As mentioned above, our favourite dementia friendly games are from Relish. Specially crafted for people with dementia, they just look and feel so premium, and so much care has gone into their design and making. Our top choices from Relish are:

Dementia Fidget Toys

Their wooden fidget toys have been created in conjunction with the Alzheimer’s Society. Each fidget (Twist, Roll, Slide, Spin) focuses a different action and can help to keep your loved one calm and happy.

Board Games For Dementia

How great is this snakes and ladders and ludo board? The clever design and colour aesthetic has been specially chosen to aid people living with dementia, and the counters are larger than usual to help with hand dexterity problems.

Dementia Painting

This is art therapy at its finest. Relish Aquapaints have been specially created for people living with dementia – take water, a paintbrush and one of the five images that comes in the Aquapaints pack and your parent will easily create an effortless masterpiece. Super relaxing, it’s ideal for people worried about agitation with dementia.

Conclusion

Brain games come in many forms and can keep the brain focused. Studies also suggest that brain games for the elderly (board games, card games etc) can assist in boosting cognitive function, particularly assisting the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex.

By keeping your mind engaged, you are exercising it, building it and making it stronger. From speedy responses, to problem solving skills, to laughing to release endorphins – sharing in empathy laughter, compassion and competition will do wonders for your mental health and goes one step further in assisting with games to play in nursing cognitive function too.

Playing games has always been acknowledged as a great pastime. This is even more so the case if you can find games to play that stimulate your brain, keep you focused, and get you socialising. No matter your level of skill, there are games for senior people to suit anyone! We hope your found our in-depth round up of the best indoor games for the elderly useful.

For more information about the importance of keeping your brain active and how this plays into wellbeing as you get older, ElWell can help. Our site is dedicated to providing you with information, advice and support to help your ageing parents.

This article may contain affiliate links. For full information, please see our disclaimer.

Frequently Asked Questions About Indoor Games For The Elderly

What are good indoor games for the elderly?

Indoor games are a great way for seniors to stay busy and engaged. There’s a vast selection to choose from. We especially like memory games, brain teasers and jigsaw puzzles – they challenge the mind and are the perfect way to not only keep the brain focused, but also introduce people to new skills, and, occasionally, a social scene.

What games can I play with someone who has dementia?

It is important to take a bit of time to choose the right game to play with someone who has dementia. Here are some tips:
– Choose the right level of game to avoid causing frustration or being seen as patronising
– Give them a choice of two or three if possible
– Talk about games that they use to play in their childhood to give you some ideas
– Choose visually colourful or sticking games
– Choose larger scale versions if possible with pieces that are easier to hold and see
– Avoid overly competitive or complex games

What benefit does playing indoor games have for older people?

Indoor games can benefit older people by:
– Exercising the mind
– Boosting mental health
– Increasing attention to detail
– Improving concentration
– Giving them social interaction, whether face-to-face with a carer, friend or family member or even remotely!

What are good games for seniors?

Indoor games are a great way for seniors to stay busy and engaged. There’s a vast selection to choose from. We especially like memory games, brain teasers and jigsaw puzzles – they challenge the mind and are the perfect way to not only keep the brain focused, but also introduce people to new skills, and, occasionally, a social scene.


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