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Socially Distanced Games Keep Things Challenging

As the COVID-19 pandemic enters its second year, some of us are seeking alternatives to the usual amusements. Reading the latest bestseller, binge-watching a series and streaming a movie are all fine forms of entertainment, but is there any way to share some fun and laughs with friends or family members while maintaining a safe distance?
The answer is sitting in the palm of your hand.

Your smartphone or tablet offers a wide range of games to challenge yourself or compete with others. The selection ranges from electronic versions of old standbys such as Monopoly, Scrabble and Solitaire to current rages, including Words With Friend, Tetris, Candy Crush Saga and Angry Birds 2. There are even games designed to help seniors build or maintain brainpower. And all are literally available at your fingertips, through apps on your smartphone or tablet, or through Facebook. You simply download them onto your device, either for free or a small cost.

Mobile games aren’t new, of course, but their popularity is soaring, thanks to the pandemic. In the second quarter of 2020, downloads averaged 1 billion per week-a year-over-year jump of 20%. Maybe it’s time for you to get in on the fun, too, if you haven’t already done so. Here’s a list of some games you might enjoy, but be forewarned: Some of them are positively addictive.

Games Old and New

  • Words with Friends Very similar to Scrabble, this app allows you to build words on a game board, but it also enables you to challenge far-flung friends and family members to a game and to keep track of your scores. Or if your interest in word games runs to the classic, there’s also a Scrabble app.
  • Clue Will it be Colonel Mustard with a rope in the conservatory? Download the Clue app and find out. You can choose to play alone against the app’s artificial intelligence (AI), or arrange a virtual game with friends.
  • Hidden Objects Looking for a game you can play with the whole family? Appropriate for all ages, Hidden Objects challenges you to solve a photo puzzle, complete hidden object challenges and search for specified items.
  • Uno This is another old favorite that is getting a new lease on life as an app that can be played with friends or family members. How old of a favorite? Uno, the card game, celebrates its 50 th anniversary this year.
  • Cribbage Do you miss sitting around a table with friends, cards and a cribbage board? Here’s the electronic version of the game, with includes an Artificial Intelligence (AI) option to help you improve your strategy, three single-player levels and multi-player “tournament” games. The app also allows you to personalize pegs, cards and other features.
  • Jigsaw Puzzle The COVID-19 pandemic sparked a run on puzzles last spring, but this app gives you access to dozens of virtual puzzles for about $20 per month. You can choose from 9- to 1,024-piece puzzles on your iPad or 9- to 400-pieces on your iPhone. The app also allows you to store all your completed puzzles and to share them with friends.


Looking to play with a large group of friends or family members? By using a computer to access a video chat platform, such as Zoom or Houseparty, along with your smartphone or tablet as a game controller, you can enjoy competing with several players at once. One of you just needs to screen-share their subscription to Jackbox, a video game provider that offers a selection of entertaining quiz games, or another multi-player game. Connect your computer to the TV to get a bigger-screen view of the action.

Brain-Building Apps

While the vast majority of game apps are suitable for all ages, there are some apps that are especially appropriate or beneficial for senior citizens. In fact, research indicates that computerized cognitive training, such as that available through apps designed for smartphones, tablets and computers, improves working memory and executive functions in those 60 and older who do not have cognitive impairments. The key is to identify games that are fun but not frustrating, particularly for those who are technology-challenged. Here are some options:

  • Sudoku A game of logic that challenges you to identify patterns and solve problems by thinking strategically, Sudoku is now available online. Which means you’ll never have to worry about erasing your false starts again.
  • Mahjong This tile-based strategy game has been associated with a better mental health, according to a University of Georgia study. Researchers found that Chinese adults who were middle-aged or older reported less depression if they played the game regularly.
  • Lumosity This popular app offers 30 games that help users understand how the mind works and sharpen their mental acuity through daily use by setting goals and developing positive habits.
  • Cognifit This app enables users to evaluate their cognitive skills and memory and also stimulate and improve those functions through the use of personalized brain games.

At GreenFields senior living community in Geneva, we take games and all sorts of fun seriously because we know how much they enhance well-being, sharpen skills and encourage comradery. While currently we are limited in our ability to gather together to share a game of checkers, a board game or a puzzle, we’re happy to help you arrange a virtual game day with your GreenFields neighbors or far-away friends and family. The goal, as it has been throughout the past year is to stay healthy, stay engaged and enjoy life-even at a distance!

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