It’s Only a Game But…


memory%20colors%20gameWhen is the last time you had a day with nothing on schedule? Sounds like science fiction, doesn’t it? We work, take care of our kids, keep the home running smoothly. Our psyches are bombarded with suggestions to try something new: Pesach in the Alps, a new program for our slow reader, brand x to make our silver shine like new. We have needs. We have goals. Never-ending problems. Solve one. Up pops another. Always something to work on. We’re mega over-stimulated.

And then, one fine day, the busy mother becomes a senior citizen. She wakes up and realizes that it’s all over. The kids are on their own. The newlyweds needing advice have become middle-aged mature adults, able to dispense advice to their own children. The house almost takes care of itself. And that’s a good thing because she doesn’t have the energy that she used to have. The merry-go-round has stopped and there are no more urgent problems to solve. Life at 75 is great…or is it? No more goals. But no more satisfaction in achieving those goals. No more children clinging to her skirt. But no more satisfaction of nurturing. Where once the tension of challenges had permeated her being, now, with nothing to work toward, depression sneaks in.

No longer does she need to do anything, go anywhere. Her emotional system shuts down. And she just sits there. Today. Tomorrow. And the day after that. Her children are frantic and contact Ezer Mizion. “Is there anything that can be done?” they ask.

Ezer Mizion has many programs for the elderly, among them Gardening Clubs where nurturing plants becomes the senior’s focus and Social Clubs where talents and experiences can be expressed. A new facet to Ezer Mizion’s Golden Age program is games. Games have been found to be an excellent tool for cognitive and social stimulation and a marvelous means of avoiding depression.

Volunteers are being carefully trained in their use and report back to the staff. They often have to overcome the senior’s negative feelings about games as being childish. Let’s read over the shoulders of staff members as they peruse the day’s reports.

Mrs. R.

Mrs. R was sitting in the living room, dressed and with make-up waiting for me. We chatted and I tried to interest her in games. Mrs. R did not want to cooperate. She tried to evade the issue, saying that she’s very busy. The grandchildren come all the time, she has trouble with her vision etc etc. I left her alone!!

Instead, I turned to Larissa, the attendant: “I see that you have your eye on the Rummikub. Want to play with me?”

As the game goes on, I see that Mrs. R is adjusting her eyeglasses, trying to follow what is going on. Then she asks Larissa to bring her closer to the table, and says, “I see that you are laughing all the time – at what??”

I gave her Rummikub tiles and explained the rules of the game.

Mrs.R was sucked right into the game. She displayed perceptual skills and high thinking ability, as well as an eye for detail. At one point in the game, she asked Larissa not to look towards the right; she has an idea how to take tiles and create a series.

We played for 45 minutes with a lot of action and relaxing laughter!!

Before we parted, she stretched out her hand and said, “You have a great mitzvah! It’s a long time since I laughed! I didn’t want to play. I gave you countless excuses. And then you started playing with Larissa. Do you think I didn’t understand??”

Mrs. F (Present at the session: Her husband and attendant Yarona)

We sat on the porch. I tried to interest Mrs. F in a game, but her husband dominated our conversation and didn’t give her a chance to express herself. He related to the game derisively. I asked the attendant to play with Mrs. F when her husband wasn’t home. .I would come when the coast would be clear to give her ideas.

Mrs. S

I put out the game, “What’s the Situation?” She opened her eyes wide at me – you want to play with me??? “Games are nonsense. They’re for stupid people!”

So I played with Nechama, her attendant. Mrs. S says to Nechama, “This is a game for stupid people. It’s not for you. You’re smart!!”

Nechama put a book on the Tishrei festivals with impressive glossy pictures on the table. Mrs. S leafed through and told us what she saw and what Yom Tov it belongs to. Mrs. S. displayed broad knowledge in the area of the Yamim Tovim, and showed a high level of memory and retrieval. As I left, she said, “The main thing is that we didn’t play games!!”

Future sessions: Do not use game material that ‘comes in a box’. Memory – use magazine pictures with a number of items. Play 21 Questions with family pictures based in info she provides during conversation.

R K and C F (2 sisters-in-law live together with 2 attendants.)

They showed me their craft works and creations. I took out a game. R immediately said that playing games is not for her, but I saw in C’s eyes that the game is very much for her!! R had trouble understanding simple instructions, while in contrast, C displayed high-level abilities.

Attendants were instructed how to play with them individually between my visits so that each will benefit appropriately.

Ezer Mizion provides services to over 660,000 of Israel’s population annually in addition to its Bone Marrow Registry which saves the lives of Jewish cancer patients the world over.

For further info: 718 853 8400     5225 New Utrecht Ave Bk NY 11219



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