Board games are incredible things. They can keep you entertained during lockdowns, bring families together and let you share wild adventures with your mates. According to new research from Asmodee (Dixit, Splendor) and its Game in Lab research group, they can also improve the health and quality of life for Alzheimer’s patients.
Over the course of a year, Game in Lab studied the impacts of playing board games regularly with Alzheimer’s patients aged between 75 and 97 with ‘moderate’ cognitive deficit. The research proved these games can be a valuable cognitive and behavioural stimulant, particularly if the games chosen align with the interests of sufferers.
The two major board games used in the study were Dobble and Timeline, both of which require thought and strategy to overcome. The classic rules were tweaked marginally to adapt to the needs of the patients (ie. some rules were left out and the accessibility of the games were improved with larger fonts and more ergonomic cards or tokens) and this enabled easier enjoyment of the games.
While the study made clear that board games were not treatment for conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s, they did have positive impacts on patients. Post-game surveys revealed 97 per cent of patients enjoyed playing the games presented, with all professionals involved stating they found the games useful in their practice. They also suggested board games could help with assessing the long-term health of patients, and reduce anxiety and agitation.
If you know someone who suffers from Alzheimer’s or similarly affecting diseases, the study suggests board games can be a fun and stimulating way to connect with them. While you may need to adapt certain games for accessibility purposes, the Game in Lab study provides handy suggestions on this front. Size and colour contrast of games were called out as potential issues, as was the need to provide easy-to-understand rules that encouraged patients to better engage with the games.
As the study demonstrated, board games can promote more social interactions and emotional stimulation between patients and caregivers with enough care and understanding. It’s an exciting finding, and one that proves just how valuable board games really are.
Asmodee aims to continue researching the potential health benefits of board games, and has committed up to five research grants for research applications within the space. You can find out more from the Game in Lab homepage.
Kotaku Australia was provided access to the Asmodee study ahead of publication. The full findings will be presented on the Game in Lab website in February.