Better than Bingo

In our last blog post ‘Beyond Bingo‘ we set out Bright Shadow’s position on bingo as a dementia activity and in older person’s services in general. In summary we stated that some people legitimately love bingo – in which case let those bingo balls loose! However some people don’t love it but will take part simply for something to do or in order to be with people. So let’s make it better. Lets treat it as a vehicle rather than an end point. Lets make it about social connection, fun and self expression.

To that end, here are our 5 top tips for making bingo better:

1. Be authentic. Use the bingo cards, pens, balls, cage and calls (e.g. ‘Knock at the door, 24′) that you would normally find at a bingo hall. Put on a bit of a performance as the ‘Caller’. People will enjoy the sense of occasion that these little details bring. Encourage participation in using the nicknames for the different numbers and have prizes to give to winners.

2. Maximise the social potential. Rather than everyone sitting around the outside of the room, arrange the furniture more like a bingo hall, having people sat around tables where it is easy to socialise and talk to one another. Try and encourage people to sit with people they get on with and invite family, friends and other visitors to join in to help create a buzzy atmosphere.

3. Turn it into an event. Give people invites a day before, encourage people to get their glad rags on, have fun music playing, decorate the space and take pictures to show to people at a later date or display around the home.

4. Facilitate peoples’ participation. To facilitate means to enable everyone to engage in an activity to their full capacity. It doesn’t mean over simplifying things or doing things for people. Consider the individuals taking part and think about whether anyone needs any special adaptations to help them take part as independently as possible. Eg Printing bigger bingo cards for people with sight problems or holding up big flash-cards with the numbers on for anyone who has hearing problems or processing verbal information. You may also have a participant who would get a lot of joy out of being the caller, or co-caller with you.

5. Spice it up. As well as numbers you can play bingo with music (eg. having a card with names of songs on it and then playing those tracks) or pictures of famous people or landmarks etc. Knowing the people taking part will help you to know which of these ideas are appropriate and accessible for everyone. Alternatively, rather than using balls to select your numbers, you could tell a story and people have to listen out for any numbers that you say, e.g. ‘I went into town on the number 22 bus and went to the greengrocers where I bought 12 pears…’

For more ideas on how to zest-up every day activities like bingo and for fresh approaches to creative activities, why not book into Bright Shadow’s Out of the Box Activities training. We have open events across the country or you can invite us to deliver it as an in-house service. Just email katy@brightshadow.org.uk to discuss a booking.