Bingo: Activity and Dementia

‘It’s bingo this afternoon.’ said the manager of a care home when I was visiting. ‘I’ve tried to stop it but the residents love it so much.’   It’s easy to be a bit snobby but  I’ll confess to having a thoroughly enjoyable little fling with this game of chance a few years ago.  My son’s scout group used to run successful bingo fundraising events every couple of months.  As a committee member I  helped to sell the tickets on the door.  I noticed that the evening was not only  popular with the parents and children.  Local older people flocked to the events.  After my volunteering duties were over I used to settle down to play with my son beside me.  We got so keen that we even had special pen, thick chunky markers.  It was a brilliant night of entertainment even when we weren’t on a winning streak.

Why Consider Bingo For People with Dementia?

  • Whilst the rules of play are simple it’s age appropriate as the pensioner pulling power of the game at our Scout Hut proved.
  • Children often love it so it’s an activity that encourage bonding between the person with dementia and other generations.    Playing with other family members could provide an incentive to participate.
  • It’s likely to be  a very familiar game.  As such it will draw on long term memories that are more likely to be retained than short term ones    Because of this it might be easier for a person with dementia to follow the rules than if they are introduced to an unfamiliar game.
  • The silly names attached to the numbers have the potential for making people laugh.
  • It encourages socialising whilst engaging in individual activity.  Some people with dementia might find  shared group efforts particularly challenging because the more intense social interaction adds layers of complexity.
  • It’s simple to set up once basic equipment has been purchased.  This does not have to be an expensive activity.  Free number generator apps on phones or tablets are available.  Wipe clean or single use bingo cards are available.   To provide a sense of occasion  think about investing in those special marker pens,  a bingo cage or an electronic number generator if this is going to be a regular activity.
  • It can be graded  according to their cognitive and sensory needs of the people playing.   For those who find it simple give them more cards to play with for each game.   Think about whether the waiting time between each number called is a good match for the processing ability of the players.  Provide large print cards for those who are sight impaired.   Think about how to visually  display the numbers called for those who are hard of hearing.  Use picture or coloured card when literacy is an issue.
  • It’s a great way of practising cognitive skills such as concentration, focus and short term memory.
  • It’s an activity that can be quick to set up and lends itself to being played in a variety of settings.
  • There are prizes that are a great motivator, especially if they are tailored to the interests and needs of the people who are playing.

A thought has struck me whilst writing this article.  Is there scope for proper bingo halls to consider running dementia friendly sessions?

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