Talk to any Activity Director at any skilled nursing facility and I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that Bingo is a regular, and popular, activity.
The number of other meaningful activities that older adults can engage in is limited only by ones imagination. So what is it with Bingo? Why does it seem that so many older adults enjoy it? Is Bingo beneficial?
There have been several research studies that indicate that playing bingo can improve both concentration and short term memory. The game is simple: the bingo caller announces a letter and number, you scan your game card for a match and if there is a match, you mark it. When the appropriate design is covered on your game card, you shout “bingo!” However, careful concentration is needed when even a few seconds delay can result in missed numbers. Regularly playing bingo can help improve concentration that can be beneficial in other areas of daily living.
If you don’t believe that the pace of a bingo game is fast, try calling it at a leisurely pace with a group of seasoned older adults. To be sure, it is a fast moving game with the caller announcing numbers at a steady pace. Players must quickly and accurately scan their game card (or cards), processing what is heard and reacting with physical movement to mark the announced number. The reaction time must be quick. The game requires coordination to enable hearing what is called (most experienced callers have loud voices and enunciate clearly), quickly recognize matches, and immediately mark those matches. Bingo can help improve older adults’ coordination.
Because of the steady pace and required concentration, bingo is intellectually stimulating for older adults. Even when the winner’s prizes are very simple, there is still excitement over the possibility of winning. This excitement can increase the release of endorphins. Endorphins act as a stimulus and can make a person feel elated and then relaxed after the game. While the game might appear mundane or even childish to some, do not underestimate the value of the stimulation realized by the players.
Many older adults are or feel isolated from friends and family. There might be mobility challenges that preclude regular outings and family members might not be as frequent visitors as they once were. Participating in a bingo game can be a valuable social outlet. Beyond the benefits associated with playing bingo discussed above, the social interaction with other players and even spectators can be of tremendous value. While depression in older adults is a real and serious issue, participating in this type of social activity can be of great benefit. Do not overlook the social value of bingo.