great card games for the elderly
Card games are great for the elderly who can play while enjoying the fresh air

There is something to be said about the simplest forms of entertainment, activities that require very little preparation or materials but elicit a great amount of fun nevertheless. Perhaps the best of these are card games, that can be enjoyed by people of all ages anywhere at any time. Playing cards can also be a great tool for sharpening concentration, memory, even boosting mental performance, which could benefit senior citizens especially.

A great way to increase the sense of community among the elderly, these four classic card games will become your aging loved ones’ go-to form of leisure while simultaneously providing them with real mental health benefits.


The widely known game of concentration, also commonly referred to as “Match Match” or “Memory” is an excellent one to try with seniors as they will exercise the important muscles in their brains that help them to remember.

The game can be played with a full deck of cards or less if you think 52 cards may be too difficult at the start. All cards must be laid number-side down, spread out in rows of the same number on a flat surface. The game starts when one player chooses a card to flip over and tries to pair that card with a match that could be anywhere else on the table. If the player makes the match then he or she goes again, keeping the matched pair. If the player does not make the match, it is the next players’ turn and the same cycle repeats itself. The winner is the person with the most pairs at the end when there are no cards left.

The great thing about concentration is that it can also be played as a solitaire activity without the need for extra players. While the game may not make memory-loss related diseases like Alzheimer’s disappear, it is a great, fun activity that will not only help senior citizens maintain focus for longer periods but also aid in sharpening their memory.


While many of us tend to associate the game of blackjack, or 21, with clever groups of people surrounded by casino chips, the game is actually another incredible tool for the elderly. Unlike the game of memory, blackjack requires players to do simple math when playing, adding numbers together each time a new card is introduced and, similar to concentration, forcing each player to remain highly attentive to each change in hand.

The game starts when the dealer passes out one card to each player. The players should be aware that each card is worth a certain number of points and the goal is to come as close to 21 points without going over. This can be made possible by receiving the number 21 with the initial two cards dealt. More often than not, the element of chance is involved when players ask the dealer for more cards in hopes of going over or getting the exact amount needed to win. The main goal is to have a hand higher than the dealers’, but not higher than 21.

Because addition is a vital part of the game, Blackjack offers a bit more of a challenge than memory, while allowing seniors to participate in a game that is highly entertaining and requires their direct focus to win. Using small rewards in games like these may even heighten the desire to play, creating some friendly competition and rivalry within their social groups.

great card games for the elderly
If normal-sized cards are too small for your elderly group, “jumbo cards” (as big as triple the size of standard playing cards) can be found online

Go Fish

Perhaps the most interactive game on the list, the classic game of Go Fish requires the most discussion amongst players. It’s a great one to suggest if you are struggling with ideas on how to spend time with the older people in your life, or even in your community.

The rules are simple: the dealer must first pass out 5 cards face down to each player. Then, the remaining cards are sporadically arranged in one big pile in the center of the table. The first player to go must ask one other player in the group if he or she has a card that they also have. For example, if player 1 has a 4, their objective is to gain another 4 from a different player by asking “Do you have a 4?” If the answer is yes, that same player is allowed to go again, but if the answer is no, the opposing player must respond “Go fish” and the player must “fish” for another card in the pile. This action is repeated until one player makes pairs out of all the cards and wins the game.

This is a fun one, especially for the elderly, because it doesn’t require as much thought as blackjack, but at the same time provides a great opportunity to socialize, and make decisions.

Feel free to adapt these card games as needed based on your audiences’ abilities and have fun boosting the mental health and happiness of those you love- regardless of their age- with just one deck of cards and a few willing participants!

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Written by Taylor Brown.




Claire Kirby

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