If you’ve ever worked with seniors in any capacity (especially senior living), chances are you’ve witnessed firsthand how important the game of bingo is. In every community I’ve served, at every resident council meeting I’ve attended, there have been cries for more bingo. It doesn’t matter how often it’s played – it’s never enough. Recently, there was an incident involving allegations of cheating (it’s still a mystery to me how one could possibly cheat at bingo) that escalated into a full-blown fight. It was so out of hand that we took the game off the calendar for an entire week in order to reset, recenter ourselves, and debrief together on what occurred and how we could ensure it never happens again. It was the mature thing to do, I thought. My loves, however, alleged that I was “weaponizing bingo”. Che cosa?!
As we were all trying to figure out what this borderline obsession is with bingo, our activity director made a great point: it’s often one of the very last programs that those living with dementia are able to participate in. It’s one that really doesn’t need much modification, and that can be played amongst a group with greatly varying cognitive abilities. I’ve noticed this myself as I’ve called it weekly; bingo always has a great turnout,
even especially amongst those nonnas who are most forgetful. But how? Why? As it turns out, I’m not the only one who’s curious about this.
Studies have actually been conducted on the effects bingo can have on the cognition of those living with dementia. Results have shown that continuous play can improve memory, mood, and engagement. It’s a game that does not require seniors to rely on memory, but rather skills like listening and hand-eye coordination. It’s great for reinforcing concentration and, due to its social aspects, triggers the release of endorphins, which create an overall sense of wellbeing and even can even have some pain-relieving effects. The ever-popular bingo can foster connections and relieve stress, both of which help to boost the immune system. It truly is so important, both subjectively and objectively! Maybe even enough so to fight over.
Our post-brawl meeting was calm and productive, at least to those who could recall the incident in the first place. Bingo’s back in its regular time slots and all are content. Going forward, now that I really get it, I’ll be sure to keep it that way.