Beyond Bingo

Bingo. How can one small word, one harmless game cause so much contention? In the care sector and older people’s services it seems to divide people. A bit like marmite-it’s a love or hate thing. Why? When I think of Bingo in general terms I have two images pop into my mind: 1. A group of older people meeting down at the Derby and Joan club to have a giggle with their friends and a bit of a flutter. 2. A group of glammed-up younger women going down to Mecca Bingo (thanks to their most recent advertising campaigns) to have a giggle with their friends and a bit of a flutter. You can see the common thread: being with friends, having fun. Bingo is simply a vehicle, not an end point. The other commonality is choice.These people have all chosen to go to bingo, based on their personal preferences.

The problem is that when people think about activities for older people, the image that too often pops into their minds is bingo. And too often bingo is the most commonly offered activity in care and community services for older people, including those with dementia. But have they chosen this or has it been chosen for them? Is it being offered in a way where it is a vehicle for other things – such as socialising, cognitive stimulation and having fun? If the answer to both of these questions is yes, then we have absolutely no quarrel with bingo. But if the answer is no then we need to challenge why and how it’s being offered. Because along with the potential problems of it being imposed upon and dull for the person taking part, it also now carries a certain stigma with it. Because of the strong association between older people in care and bingo, it can make people feel like they are being treated as old, unable to do anything else and as a stereotype rather than as an individual. It can take away dignity.

So, how can we make the situation better? Well firstly we need to recognise that one of the big reasons that bingo is so often the option is that the people delivering care or activities have not been empowered and equipped to deliver anything else. If we don’t invest in training the people that are putting their heart and soul into caring for others then we will never move beyond bingo. If people aren’t empowered that they can have a significant impact on the wellbeing of people with dementia through appropriate activities, and then equipped with skills to deliver these activities then how can we expect anything other than bingo? Bright Shadow’s Out of the Box training addresses this very problem. We start by empowering staff that what they do can make a vast difference to wellbeing and give them skills to do it. They leave motivated to be more creative and thoughtful in their activity provision.

Secondly we can make Bingo better. As stated at the beginning of this post, some people legitimately love bingo. 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 next week we will be posting a blog article with 5 tips for making Bingo Better. Check out our website to not miss out.

And to those of you who provide activities for people with dementia, whether its bingo or something else, we say WELL DONE. Keep going, keep learning and keep making sure you have fun with the people in your care.