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Benefits of Playing Cards for Seniors

benefits of playing cards seniors

Pinochle, euchre, bridge...card games are a leisure-time activity that brings people together to have fun.

The National Institute on Aging, however, says that card games do much more. Research indicates that strategic card games, such as pinochle and bridge, that exercise memory and concentration may prevent or reduce cognitive decline in older adults.

Cognitive Benefits of Card Games

Keith A. Josephs, a neurologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., said there is little evidence that playing bridge or other games will prevent Alzheimer’s or another degenerative process that usually occur among seniors. “Rather, it might delay the onset of symptoms so that the individual can function at a higher level,” he remarked to AARP.

On the other hand, a 2014 University of Wisconsin-Madison study indicates that participants who frequently engaged in playing cards, checkers, or board games or putting puzzles together during middle age had higher brain volumes than those who played fewer or no games. People who later develop degenerative brain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, experience a greater decrease in brain volume.

Animal studies appear to show a greater link between an enriched environment with cognitive stimulation and socialization and the prevention of degenerative brain disease.

Studies show that recreational activities, such as card games, stimulate nerve growth in the portions of the brain that process emotions and executive function.

Immunological Benefits of Card Games

Card games provide other protective benefits to participants.

An experiment by neuroscientist Marian Diamond showed senior contract bridge players have increased numbers of immune cells, called CD-4 positive T cells, after playing.

Two studies of adults being treated for alcoholism showed that recreational activities, such as card games, can decrease stress and improve mood. Specifically, participation in card and board games lowered plasma cortisol levels.

Bridgette Argus, wellness center coordinator at The Esquiline, cites several reasons why card and other games benefit health. Card games provide opportunities for socialization and require strategy, memory, and teamwork.

She adds the retirement community promotes card games to foster the health of residents. “That’s why we offer card games, such as pinochle, euchre and bridge.” She adds that she has no statistics on the number of informal card games that occur in the community’s apartments.

Social Benefits of Card Games

Socialization is an important aspect of card games. Most card games involve getting 2 or more people together to play.

Bridgette observes that card games at The Esquiline have led to the start of friendships among residents.

Social engagement is associated with a stronger immune system, better mental health, a lower risk of dementia,  and decreased depression.

Physical Benefits of Card Games

In addition to the mental and social benefits of playing cards, shuffling and dealing cards increases coordination, Bridgette notes.

Other physical benefits include improvement in fine and gross motor skills, reflexes, and hand-eye coordination.

Find out more about how The Esquiline provides programs to increase the physical, social, intellectual, and spiritual wellness of residents by contacting us.


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