Board Games Take Aging Parents Down Memory Lane

May 18, 2015
Board games can help jog memories.  (Image courtesy of Keerati/

Board games can help jog memories. (Image courtesy of Keerati/

Taking care of aging parents or spouses encompasses many activities and responsibilities. For many caregivers, keeping aging parents occupied and entertained presents challenges, as does working to keep senior memories sharp. Perhaps it’s time to bring out a few board games from yesteryear to accomplish both tasks.

Memory lane

Most adults grew up with board games as a significant part of their childhoods or young adult lives. Often as people age, they cease playing such games: they get too busy or feel that they have outgrown such activities. They may play the occasional game of checkers with a grandchild, but they don’t often go beyond that.

Yet many adults have strong memories associated with the games of their youth. These may not be on the surface, so they may not talk about them very much. Yet often when aging parents or spouses are reintroduced to games from their youth, they begin to find associations and connections that they have not previously identified.

Take a trip to the attic

While it can be very useful to purchase a new edition of an old board game, it’s worth it to see if a vintage edition is still around the house. Perhaps the attic or the garage has a supply of games from decades past. They may be missing a few pieces, but they’re still worth playing. New editions may have a different look or may have been updated in ways that make them less familiar. By contrast, bringing out an old game is like meeting an old friend.


It’s also helpful if adult children who are acting as caregivers can find games that they and their aging parents played together in years past. That way, the caregiver can also help to prompt memories from the parent: “This is that game we played that Christmas at Aunt Betsy’s” or “Didn’t your uncle give you this game when you were a child?”

If the attic is devoid of games, consider purchasing one or two to play. Here are some examples of games which debuted in past decades. These are just the tip of the iceberg, of course.

  • 1960s – Hi Ho, Cherry O!, Stratego, Life, Mystery Date
  • 1950s – Risk, Yahtzee
  • 1940s – Candyland, Cootie, Clue
  • 1930s – Scrabble, Go to the Head of the Class, Sorry, Monopoly

Some seniors may be at a point where processing information can be challenging. Make sure that the rules of the game are not too complicated for the senior in question.

Keep it fun. If the game stirs memories for Dad, that’s great; if not, all participants have had fun sitting down to play a game together.

Writer, Craig Butler

Craig Butler has been writing on a wide range of topics for more than fifteen years. As the National Communications Director for the Cooley's Anemia Foundation, Craig regularly writes on a range of health and medical topics. Among the many projects he has written for the Foundation is the Cooley's Anemia Storybook, a collection of original short stories for children with the blood disorder Cooley's Anemia. His freelance work has ranged from reviewing moves and CDs to creating entertainment-related stories about baldness, to creating text for comic strips. Craig looks forward to having a dialogue with you about senior care and issues of concern.

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