Healthy Brains and Board Games

What comes to mind when you think of board games? Some of us might think back to past family game nights while others currently partake in regular board game nights with friends. Whether you participate in weekly game nights with perfect attendance or have never played board games, the wide range of games available today is bound to include at least a few that appeal to you!

There are the classics, for instance Monopoly and Scrabble, that have proved the test of time. For those who are interested in exploring new games, there are exciting options including Exploding Kittens, Sushi Go, a range of role-playing games and many more! For example, Mouseguard, a modern role playing game, has players take on the role of a mouse in situations limited only by the players’ imaginations.

Board games provide us with opportunities to interact with one another and work collaboratively. We are hopeful that creating opportunities for community members to play board games together will promote social engagement and intergenerational socialization. Most importantly, we hope to have fun together!

Board Game Benefits

In addition to providing opportunities for social engagement, which has been linked to improved health outcomes and quality of life, board games themselves have been associated with reduced risk of dementia. Likewise, board game playing has also been associated with less cognitive decline and decreased risk of depression.

A recent study reported that participants, who were individuals living with early to moderate dementia, found board games to be engaging and a meaningful way to pass time. Over the course of ten weeks, players began interacting with each other more, working collaboratively and engaging in some friendly competition. These researchers also found that there was an increase in self-confidence in the players. Initially, participants had to be asked to come to the table and looked to researchers for assistance often. At the end of the ten weeks, participants were waiting at the table for the game to start and played more independently.

Overall, playing board games seems to be a great way to engage with others and potentially gain some health benefits, all while having fun and enjoying ourselves.

Join Us!

Hamilton Aging in Community will be hosting an information session for an inclusive and accessible game group that is currently being formed. Seniors, including persons living with dementia, and anyone over the age of 14 are encouraged to join us. In order to best serve the needs and interests of our community, we will be showcasing a variety of games that will be available during our events. We are excited about this opportunity to receive your feedback and to answer your questions about this new group. Donations of board games gratefully received.

Please click here for event details.


Dr. Shawn McKenzie is a research scientist at McMaster University within the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences. His research areas focus mostly on the climate resilience of the forest ecosystem carbon cycle. When not conducting science, Shawn promotes fantasy literature and board and role play games by organizing book discussion groups and board game events. Shawn has enjoyed various types of table-top role-play and board games for over 20 years and sees them as a valuable tool to integrate both social interaction between age groups and to take a break from reality. Shawn hopes that the gaming group will be an exciting and fun way to build community across age and social gaps.

Joe Schacher is a musician, composer and IT man. He studied music at McMaster University (B. Mus) and received his Master’s of Music Composition from the University of Toronto. Joe plays games of all sorts: board games, collectible card games, role playing games and video games. He has played board games since he was very young, and when he had no one to play with he would play against himself! Joe enjoys mastering strategy and rules of board and card games, but he also likes the imagination-driven free form flowing flimshamery of role playing games!  Joe is looking forward to the experience of a fun new playing group.

Stephanie Wickens is a local artist and student at McMaster, pursuing a degree in Health Studies and Gerontology. Her research areas include intergenerational communication and relationships, and building stronger communities for people of all ages. Stephanie enjoys facilitating art, music and social activities in the broader Hamilton community to promote and strengthen communication and socialization between different age groups. She hopes that community members are interested in engaging with the gaming group, see its value, and enjoy taking part.


Social Participation, Health Outcomes and Quality of Life

Bath, P. A., & Deeg, D. (2005). Social engagement and health outcomes among older people: introduction to a special section. European Journal of Ageing2(1), 24-30.

Howrey, B. T., & Hand, C. L. (2018). Measuring Social Participation in the Health and Retirement Study. The Gerontologist.

Tomioka, K., Kurumatani, N., & Hosoi, H. (2016). Association between social participation and instrumental activities of daily living among community-dwelling older adults. Journal of epidemiology, JE20150253.

Vogelsang, E. M. (2016). Older adult social participation and its relationship with health: Rural-urban differences. Health & place42, 111-119.

Board Games and Cognition

Miltiades, H. B., & Thatcher, W. G. (2019). Individuals with Alzheimer’s learn to play a tile placement game: Results of a pilot study: Innovative practice. Dementia18(2), 802-807.

Miltiades, H. B., & Thatcher, W. G. (2019). Social engagement during game play in persons with Alzheimer’s: Innovative practice. Dementia18(2), 808-813.

Dartigues, J. F., Foubert-Samier, A., Le Goff, M., Viltard, M., Amieva, H., Orgogozo, J. M., … & Helmer, C. (2013). Playing board games, cognitive decline and dementia: a French population-based cohort study. BMJ open3(8), e002998.

Verghese, J., Lipton, R. B., Katz, M. J., Hall, C. B., Derby, C. A., Kuslansky, G., … & Buschke, H. (2003). Leisure activities and the risk of dementia in the elderly. New England Journal of Medicine348(25), 2508-2516.