Articles, activities for boomers & seniors
Long before there were cell phones, telephones, and even saxophones, there were other methods of play and competition that required in-person interaction. As people begin to get out and enjoy each other's company, they are rediscovering simple pleasures that are easily shared.
Senior centers and related venues offer games as comforting distractions and opportunities for gentle competition.
Some of my earliest memories include images of the menfolk in our family sitting around a table, smoking cigars, and moving round colored chips around the table while discussing world events. The word "poker" was one of those "adult" words that children didn’t connect with, like "mortgage" and "The War."
Unlike the chess game with Death in memories, or any number of poker games with "cheatin' varmints" in westerns, a friendly card or board game can put people at ease and make you think, plan, and laugh, without leaving your seat (or recharging your phone). There are games of different levels of intellectual ability and concentration. Let's look at some games people play.
Checkers may trigger images of men in plaid flannel shirts and suspenders having a leisurely game around the pickle barrel. However, being responsible for 12 game pieces, although easy to learn, can still generate excitement as you capture pieces on the way to being crowned!
Chinese Checkers is a bit hairier than “regular” checkers and requires more strategy. In this game, you compete with up to 5 other players to move your 10 pieces from your start point to the point opposite yours. You can even move multiple spaces at once if you’re tricky!
Chess has endured for about 1,500 years, and it looks to outsiders like it takes that long to play. It takes a lot of concentration and strategy to move your pawns, bishops, rooks, knights, king, and queen around the board in different directions to get the chance to say, “Checkmate!”
Backgammon has been around for centuries and is easily recognized by its alternating colored triangles, checkers, and dice. A bit of strategy will help you “cast off” all your pieces from the game. Moves are dictated by the roll of the dice.
While not exactly a board game, Chronology challenges your memory and grasp of history as you decide if ice cream cones were invented before or after silver dollars, among other events. The idea is to guess where in your timeline the cards fall. You have to keep 10 cards to win, with the possibility of losing them along the way.
Monopoly is a safe way to experience the risky world of real estate. As you go around the board at the toss of the dice, you can buy property, pay rent on someone else’s property, buy and sell, and try not to land in jail. Sometimes, you have to pick a card that can either benefit you or bite you in the wallet. It’s a classic, and there are even companies that make local Monopoly games featuring local streets and businesses! These can often be found in larger bookstores.
For fun with words, try Scrabble. Players are given a number of wooden letters of various points, and must lay them down on a special board to make point-rich words. The words must include an already-played letter or add to an existing word. It’s kind of like building your own crossword, so it takes some tactical prowess to use up all your tiles and win.
For the young and wistfully-young, Candy Land players join the hunt to find King Kandy, drawing cards as they travel through Gumdrop Mountain and Candy Cane Forest, meeting Queen Frostine and Mr. Mint, among others. One million games are purchased each year, so they must be doing something right!
There are dozens of other board games to choose from, including Life, Trivial Pursuit (which may seem a lot like life), and Cribbage, as well as action games like Twister and Charades.
One of the most popular action games of generations is Pictionary, a game where teams simultaneously draw pictures to illustrate the answer for their teammate(s) — a paper version of Charades. There are different versions of the above games available, but the basics are the same, the bottom line being: Have fun!
The equipment needed to play a good game of cards is simple: a simple deck of cards. What could be easier? A smartphone? Cards don’t need to be charged. Just make sure you’re playing with a full deck! (Side note: Remember when gas stations and hardware stores handed out free decks?) Here are some ideas using a standard deck.
Rummy is a game in which players draw and discard cards, trying to get “melds” that typically consist of sets of the same values or runs of consecutive values. It is one of the simplest games and requires little strategy.
Blitz is a popular and casual social card game. By drawing and discarding a card each turn, the aim is to improve your three-card hand to have the closest to 31 points in one suit.
Canasta is a game that became extremely popular in the 1950s. Canasta uses two standard decks and is best in two-player partnerships. It is a rummy-style game in which the aim is to make melds of seven cards of the same value, and “go out” by playing your entire hand
A favorite game for youngsters is Go Fish. The object is to make “books” of 4 of a kind by asking other players for the card(s) you need to make a book. If a player does not have the asked-for card, they say, “Go fish,” and the asker draws from the “ocean” pile. The game ends when all 13 books are laid down.
We cannot leave out Poker, the ultimate bluffing game, and Hearts and Pinochle, trick-taking games, all of which we may have seen our elders play around the kitchen table while solving the problems of the world. Poker is usually considered a betting game, with three basic variations: stud, draw, and community cards. Texas Hold ’Em is the current favorite.
Notice we did not mention Solitaire, the classic one-person card game. That’s because the whole point of this article is to get our readers out and back into socializing in a fun, comfortable way! If you play your cards right, you can have a lot of fun and rejuvenate friendships and make new ones!