Recreational Activities for Seniors with Visual Impairments

By Peer Advisor Lynda Jones, CVRT

A Question

"I would like to help a Social Director in an Independent Living Facility find activities or games that could be played by people with visual impairments from conditions such as macular degeneration or glaucoma. Are there any large maps/puzzles (like those for children) so that one could be challenged to name alphabetically the states, countries in Europe, Africa, etc.? I am concerned that our residents are bored with a lack of activities to do."

Answer: Many Games Can Be Adapted

People with macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy enjoy playing the same games as people without vision loss. There are adaptive versions of many games, although an adaptive version is not needed by many people with low vision.

Board Games

Specialty companies offer adaptive versions of many popular board and table games, including dominoes, checkers, Monopoly, and Scrabble.

Adaptive dominoes are white with raised black dots that can be seen by many people with low vision, especially if played on a table or cloth that creates a significant contrast, i.e. black or another dark color. The outlines of the white dominoes stand out against the dark background, allowing the players to locate where to place their next domino. The dark background also helps to reduce glare, which is often a problem for people with impaired vision. Because these dominoes have raised dots, they can also be used by people with no vision.

Checkers is another favorite game. The contrast between the red and black squares of a regular checker set may be enough contrast for some players. Others may prefer the adaptive version with one set of square and another set of round checkers and a board divided by raised lines.

You can learn more about adapted board games and everyday adaptations you can make to standard board games at the following links on VisionAware.org:

Card Games

Large print playing cards with enlarged letters, numbers, and suits can be purchased at toy or department stores and specialty companies. These decks make it possible for individuals to enjoy bridge, poker, cribbage and other card games with friends and family. A darker contrasting background makes the cards easier to see on the table. A cribbage board is easier to see if the holes are highlighted with a contrasting color. Many people who are totally blind or have severe vision loss can join in card games by learning only thirteen braille letters.

You can learn more about adapted card games and everyday adaptations you can make to standard card games at the following links on VisionAware.org:

How to Find Products

You can visit VisionAware's Helpful Products page to find links to the American Foundation for the Blind product database and a listing of specialty product catalogs. You can also purchase games in toy and department stores. The regular versions can be adapted by enlarging the print and creating raised lines, often for little or no extra money. Some games like Mancala need no adaptations.

You can find more links and information about ways to adapt games, including lighting, contrast, labeling products, and using low vision devices, at Playing Cards and Games after Vision Loss on the VisionAware website.

Other Fun Recreational Activities

A trip to the bowling alley can quickly lift the spirits. Many bowling alleys have gutter bumpers that help improve scores by keeping bowling balls out of the gutter. They may also have a portable ramp for individuals who have difficulty bending over to throw a ball. A print copy of a chart showing the pin set-up can be provided to each bowler. After the first ball of each frame is thrown, a sighted person can point out on the chart which pins are still standing.

Don't forget outings to movies, art museums and local theatre. People who are visually impaired can enjoy these activities too, now that audio description is available to enhance your enjoyment of the theatre, movies, and television.

You can learn more about a wide variety of recreational and cultural activities, including sports, exercise, cultural activities, and crafts, at Recreation and Leisure for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired on the VisionAware website.

Personal Stories

services icon Looking for Help?

Join Our Mission

Help us expand our resources for people with vision loss.