What are the best games for the elderly to play alone

What are the best games for the elderly to play alone?

5 min read |
Alistair Clay Author

Author 18.01.2024

Alistair Clay

Games for elderly to play alone can be helpful for anyone who doesn’t have a games partner, or enjoys a personal puzzle.

As well as being fun, board games and puzzles can be a great way to maintain health brain activity.

While there are limitless games out there, some are more loved by older members of the family.

Here are our top picks of games for the elderly to play alone - which are sure to keep your loved ones entertained.

Here’s a summary of what we’ll cover:

  • Finding games for the elderly to play alone can benefit them mentally, by reducing anxiety and feelings of loneliness.
  • Even a simple deck of cards can allow your loved one to reconnect with themselves and others.
  • These games for the elderly are travel-friendly so they can be played on the go.
  • Playing games often can release endorphins to lift mood and improve cognitive and motor skills.
puzzles and alzheimers

The best games for elderly to play alone

Let’s take a closer look at the best games and puzzles for you or a loved one to test the old grey matter!



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These word puzzles really get you thinking, which is a great challenge for the brain. 

They require you to think in a way that makes connections, and can be cryptic (if you dare!) 

Not only are they great for literacy and learning new words, they can also be used to test your hand-eye coordination skills. 

Or for an extra challenge to keep your brain active, why not try to write with your non-dominant hand. 

Where to find them?

Crosswords can be found in your newspaper, local paper or in dedicated books and websites. 

How to play

The goal is to fill in words that cross horizontally or vertically by using the clues provided. 

Some of the white squares will have a small number, which will match a list of clues.

Each white square should be filled with one letter, while black squares show where each word or phrase should be separated.

For example, Across: A character playing a negative role in a story (10) Answer: Antagonist 


games for elderly

Word Search

Another fun word game that tests your knowledge is a word search.

This game is an excellent test of vocabulary and communication, as well as helping to aid visualisation skills.

Word searches can have a variety of themes and range from easy to difficult, so there is something for everyone.

It’s a great game to play alone, all you need is a pen and a printed word search to get started.

How to play

The player must cross off each word they find in a grid of random letters.

Words can be found across, down, or diagonally. 

A list of words will be found at the bottom of the page, which you can tick off once found.

Once all the words are found, you have completed the crossword, and you can then move on to the next one.

Online Chess

Another game that requires a more strategic approach and is a timeless classic is chess!

Chess is an excellent long-lasting game that really gets your brain working, and it’s good fun to learn. 

Easy online versions will let you play against a computer, which makes it a great game for elderly to play alone.

It is a great alternative for older people who prefer a more challenging game that they can spend a bit of time on.

How to play

There are two opposing sides, white and black.

The aim of the game is to use your army of chess pieces to checkmate the opponent’s king.

Each chess piece will have a different rule, for example, a pawn can only move one space forward or back (apart from at the start).

Once checkmate is declared, the game is over.

card games for elderly to play alone

Playing Cards

Cards are an affordable and travel-convenient option if an elderly person you know is on the go. 

A pack of cards perhaps has the most versatility, as well as several games you can play by yourself such as Match or Solitaire.

Playing cards also takes up little space, all you need is a clean flat surface to play on. 

A solo game of cards can easily pass the time if you have long waits for appointments or car journeys, so they are a great option.

How to play Match

Match or Pairs is where you place cards facing down in a series of rows.

The aim is to make pairs from the rows, and players must memorise one card at a time before facing it back down. 

If you find a pair, you can reveal both those cards and put them to the side. 

Once all the pairs have been found, that means you’ve won the game.

Memory Card Games

If your  loved one enjoys card games, then they might like memory card games.

Unlike a traditional pack of cards, these games focus on testing your memory.

And if they live alone and struggle with their memory, then this could be a fun way to help them practise.

This game can aid cognition and strengthen their recall skills, which can stave off developing dementia.

What are the best  Memory Card games to play?

card games for people with dementia

Where can I find these games and puzzles?

Most of these options can be found in your local store or online, and they often have little to no cost. 

Other places like charity shops are likely to have second-hand games, so they are an easy find.

If your older loved one enjoys reading the paper or local magazines, crosswords and word searches are likely to be there to play.

Or if they are more tech-savvy, easy one-player editions of Chess and Snap are also an option. 

benefits of games for elderly

How can playing games help my loved one?

Finding games that are suitable for an older person will allow them to experience familiarity and comfort.

These positive feelings can alleviate stress, and allow them to unwind and feel relaxed and happy.

Games can allow them to focus on something if they struggle with anxiety or depression, as well as prevent them from getting worse. 

However, it’s best to seek professional mental health advice, if you suspect your loved one is showing signs.

Enhancing cognitive and motor skills

Not only can these games help your older loved one with their mental health, playing games can also improve cognition.

Practising skills like hand-eye coordination can reduce the risk of gaining conditions like vision impairment.

More traditional games that rely on pen and paper can prevent loss of muscle which could help reduce the risk of arthritis.

So not only can these games be fun, but they can also support our motor functions and increase brain activity. 

Boosting social interaction

There are many ways in which you can support your loved one who is living alone, such as playing games with them.

If you can visit regularly, it can be a great way to bond and allow them to be more socially interactive.

Introducing these games to carers or support workers can help them engage with your loved one if they are in a residency.

Allowing a game to be a talking point, in which your older loved one can express their interests and allow for conversation.

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How does playing games help with loneliness?

Not everyone chooses to live alone, and transitioning from living with a partner or children can be an unwelcome change. 

Finding ways to keep them busy and engage in activities they enjoy can be a great way to help them adjust. 

As having nothing to do can be a daunting prospect – games can provide a productive distraction. 

For more advice on the signs of loneliness in elderly, head to our article.

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Alistair Clay Author

Author 18.01.2024

Alistair Clay

Alistair is a founding Director of Sweet Pea Care and the Managing Director of social care communications agency Arc Seven where he advises some of the UK’s biggest care providers.