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Elderly game design

13 replies [Last post]
Joined: 04/16/2017

Hello everyone!

I'm a design student currently developing a game for elderly people.
The aim is that is it a collaborative game for people to get to know each other and start creating bonds.

Do you have any tips of other existing board games that are collaborative and at the same time to make people get to know each other? I'm open for any suggestion.

I would be really thankful if you could share some tips that you might know about.


Joined: 11/05/2015
good idea, different approach?

I don't know if there is any game that will "make people get to know each other."

I believe the thing that creates bonds is not the "opening up" but the shared experience of fun, excitement, and narrative a game can bring. Then, as those bonds grow stronger, people naturally open up.

If you look at your own life, I would wager the majority of your friends were not formed by first "opening up" with the details of your life. Rather you (like me and most others) formed friendships around shared interests/experiences (college, board games, summer camp, biker gang), then, from those now formed friendships began to open up.

If your goal is to get elderly people into board games so that they create those bonds and open up- perhaps designing a board game isn't the right approach. Perhaps starting a non-profit that gets board games into nursing homes, assisted living, retirement communities, etc. with facilitators is the way to go?

Joined: 01/27/2017
There is a whole cottage industry built around this

Building off of what spaff said, a board game is probably not the right tool for this job. But I understand that it's a school assignment.

Large organizations will often have consultants come in and do "team-building exercises" for a location that seems to be having problems. Employees find team-building to be awkward, but that's probably less about the methods and more about no one ever trying explicit team-building before the office gets toxic.

Of course, these are consultants we're talking about. It very well could be nothing but snake oil ;-)

Assuming there is something of value, look for inspiration among "team building" and "ice breaker" activities that were designed for new ventures/projects/teams. A typical component is having small groups compete against each other, which might turn into a board game in which each side requires a small team to work together to perform any actions. If that doesn't fit with the assignment's definition of "cooperative" game, then just scrounge around for lightweight cooperative game mechanics.

Given the target demographic, I would avoid (1) anything with a serious dexterity component, (2) player elimination, and (3) any topics/themes dealing war or loss (so nothing in the Pandemic franchise). Given the design goal, I would also avoid traitor/mole mechanics unless you come up with a really really clever way of making the mole hunt require getting to know the other players.

Best of luck!

let-off studios
let-off studios's picture
Joined: 02/07/2011
How to Start

Ask yourself: what did these games do to:
- lower the barrier to entry (keep things simple)
- let people share/show off their own knowledge, but not ALL the time
- keep things light and friendly
- limit its scope





You can probably find a lot of these at a convenient big-box store near where you are, or you likely know someone with a copy.

When developing your own game for this assignment, I suggest you find one of these and re-theme it as a good place to start. It will save you a lot of time and head-banging-against-the-wall. :)

questccg's picture
Joined: 04/16/2011
Dinner's at 4:30!

asofia wrote:
I'm a design student currently developing a game for elderly people. The aim is that is it a collaborative game for people to get to know each other and start creating bonds.

Check out: Dinner's at 4:30... By Echo Games.

It seems like an example of a way to laugh at living in a home for the elderly. Granted it's not cooperative... I've watched the Kickstarter video and the goal of the game is to poke fun at all the idiosyncrasies (not at the elderly).

Maybe you can inspire yourself from this game... I'm not saying yours will be in any way similar - I'm just giving something else you might want to take a look at...

Willem Verheij
Willem Verheij's picture
Joined: 06/08/2016
In my experience the elderly

In my experience the elderly don't want to try anything new, and will only play very old boardgames that they already know.

Then again my grandparents have always been very boring. My grandmother is affraid of people and people tend to be "affraid" of my grandfather since he always knows best and wants to command others what to do and how to live their life.

And my own parents are pretty much turning into them. They used to play cards with friends in the past, but might have not done that anymore in 20 years.

Glass shoe games
Glass shoe games's picture
Joined: 02/28/2017
I feel like any dexterity

I feel like any dexterity game would be awesome. Haba and mayday games have a ton.
Animal upon animal
Rhino hero
Click clack lumberjack
Garbage day

Mosker's picture
Joined: 03/30/2014
A different approach

This Danish ad about diversity got a good deal of Internet traffic.

Start with the activity, moving, categorizing, surprising people and then if you wish, add more game-like elements.

Think of your target audience and how this highlights both individuality and shared attributes, being part of something.

polyobsessive's picture
Joined: 12/11/2015

Glass shoe games wrote:
I feel like any dexterity game would be awesome. Haba and mayday games have a ton.
Animal upon animal
Rhino hero
Click clack lumberjack
Garbage day

One of the things that often declines in old age is motor control, in various forms. Perhaps games that require fine motor control might not be ideal.

lewpuls's picture
Joined: 04/04/2009

Willem, there are lots of elderly people like that. I've tried to interest local elderly people who play canasta for HOURS a week to try even another card game (such as Oh Hell). Nothing.

OTOH, I'm 66, and while I am not as inclined as young people to "try anything", nor as inclined as young people to accept whatever others are like as "OK", I try to be more open-minded than many my age.

ssm's picture
Joined: 04/06/2017
What is elderly?

"I'm a design student currently developing a game for elderly people."
What is elderly?
Two of the toughest things to get past are-
A lot of their lives are routine. Someone would need to break them of a routine to set a new routine, generally speaking.
Nothing in common. We bond through commonalities. People born after the TV was a standard in most houses have a much easier time bonding. Those from before have a difficult time.
Even radio took a long time to filter down through classes, and when some were discovering radio shows, others were moving on to the beginnings of mass marketed TVs.
Commonalities tend to revolve around 'pop-culture', and in the past, pop-culture tended to be regional. (there was no internet, TV, most didn't have access to movies/newsreels until later, etc). What most elderly will readily bond over is family; family was/is usually important (they usually had to rely on each other to make it.
Times were much different, and remain different for many.

tikey's picture
Joined: 03/31/2017
If you're looking at getting

If you're looking at getting people to know each other you should talk about group dynamics with a social psychologist. There are many activities designed to get people to open up and talk, to introduce themselves and to overcome shyness. Many of those could be integrated into a boardgame or used as mechanics.
From the top of my head I remember talking about how spinning yarn while introducing themselves helped people open up and talk, even about very personal stuff.

Midnight_Carnival's picture
Joined: 06/17/2015
from my experience

Yeah, I'm a million years old hahahaha
No, I used to help out in this frail-care centre with infirm elderly people and I observed them.

Elderly people can have a lot of patience, but this is not something you should take for granted. They like Jigsaw puzzles because they can leave them and come back to them. Elderly people have can high intelligence (unless suffering from dementia, severe Alzheimer [which doesn't effect their cognitive abilities, but really makes working things out difficult if they forget what they are trying to work out and why] or some other ailments) but they often get frustrated with complicated and involved tasks (especially those involving learning to use computers!)
We often encounter the sentiment that "I've learnt it allready, all the important stuff anyway"
I would like to suggest that you make a game where elderly people's experiences would help them, but since I don't know what those experiences are, I can't suggest how to do this.
Also, one thing you may have neglected to take into account;
Elderly people don't necessarily find the company of other elderly people that exiting. Many of the ones I met while volunteering my services were or felt abandoned by their families and quite a few of them would enjoy activities with children where they share their accumulated wisdom with the kids. Just a pity there are only a few weird kids who like hanging out with old people-
I know that when I'm an old man, I'll grow a very long white beard, wear robes and play pencil and paper rpgs with teenagers, making them ummm interesting cups of tea. I can think that something like an elderly person acting as a dungeon master in a game could be interesting.
Old people also have a higher tolerance for abstract ideas, they like card games like bridge (which I don't get and don't want to) and board games like Go.
I thank you for taking the time to try and find interesting things for elderly people to do, I find it encouraging.
Wish I could be more help.
If something comes up, I'll let you know.

tikey's picture
Joined: 03/31/2017
Woha, that's fascinating and

Woha, that's fascinating and it's probably gold for whomever is designing games for the elderly.
I'm going to save this somewhere in case I need it in the future, thanks for sharing.

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