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Study: Seniors Put Their Cards On the Table


For 10 days in July, thousands swamped the Toronto Convention Centre. Mostly older adults, they had come to Toronto for the 2017 North American Bridge Championships.

So it is no surprise that new Canadian research finds playing cards is a favourite leisure activity among older adults.

The study found that 73 per cent of older adults play non-digital games, such as cards, surpassing the 53 per cent who play digital games. The research was led by Ben Mortenson of the department of occupational science and occupational therapy at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.

The findings, published online in the Canadian Journal on Aging (June 22, 2017), draw on data from a large cross-sectional survey, looking at patterns of digital and non-digital game-playing among older adults. Researchers recruited individuals over the age of 55 from shopping malls, residential facilities, seniors' centres and community centres within the Greater Vancouver area.

The present study draws on data from 648 respondents, who answered questions about non-digital games. Respondents included 412 females and 236 males.

Popular games

Survey results show 65 per cent of respondents enjoy playing cards.

Other popular games, include:

  • board games, such as scrabble, chess and checkers
  • puzzles like crossword, Sudoku and jigsaw, and
  • gambling, including slots, bingo and poker.

Ten per cent play Yahtzee, a popular dice game.

Interestingly, the new study reveals only four per cent of participants play sports or physical games, such as snooker, curling or bowling.

Benefits abound

First and foremost, older adults play for the fun and enjoyment.

Additionally, nearly 80 per cent play to stay mentally sharp. This was especially important as people age and among people with higher education.

More than 70 per cent of participants enjoy the social nature of non-digital games. Most play with family, friends or members of a club. About 10 per cent play for longer than four hours at a time, while about half play less than an hour at a time.

Only 26 per cent of participants play for escape from daily life.

Lately, digital games have grabbed the research limelight, but Mortenson and colleagues say the current study emphasizes the importance of non-digital games to enhance social interaction and quality of life among older adults.

Clearly, the five thousand card-loving bridge players that crowded into the Toronto Convention Centre this summer, agree. As one player told CBC's The National: "You have to put so much mental energy into playing bridge. It's like having a marathon for your body."