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Best card games for older adults to play

22nd October 2020


As the nation has found itself with a lot more free time recently due to the restrictions the covid pandemic has induced, finding other ways to keep occupied, in mind and body has been tricky. There is a lot of discussion about keeping older adults physically healthy and mobile and the best ways to do this. This is especially important for those who use home stair lifts in the UK. However, staying mentally sharp is equally important and maintaining a healthy brain and memory function can help reduce the chances of dementia.

Card games have been cited as an activity that can help maintain and even improve mental agility. There are lots of card games out there and some even have clubs so people can play and meet new people at the same time. Carry on reading to find some of the most popular card games that are perfect for older adults looking to pass the time and keep their mind in shape.



Bridge has been a popular game for over 100 years and is based on Whist, this refined and elegant game relies on skill and a good working relationship between partners as opposed to other card games that have an element of luck and thus the success of the player is dependent on the cards that are dealt.

Bridge requires a group of four people split into two pairs, ensuring a social element in the game. It also causes the most skilled Bridge players to track cards that have been played, therefore improving both memory and maths as they work out what is left in the deck. The English Bridge Union describes why the game is so popular:

“First and foremost, people play because they enjoy it. Playing bridge is a fun activity which you can enjoy with friends and family of any age, anywhere in the world. All you need is a pack of cards, a table, and some like-minded people. Bridge players love the mental challenge. Each game played will offer a unique challenge of problems and solutions. Every single deal is different; every deal poses a new problem and the challenge of finding the solution is a great source of enjoyment - even more so if you find the answer!”

For those interested in playing Bridge check out a simple set of rules here.



Rummy has been very popular since its conception. This is mainly due to its relatively simple rules and yet complex and tactical gameplay. There are many variations of Rummy including Gin Rummy (for two players), Indian Rummy (using two decks of cards), and 13 Card Rummy (played with 13 cards in a hand) among others.

This incredibly versatile game is very sociable and often Rummy clubs are fun venues. Though simpler than bridge, there is more chance involved in the different types of Rummy so it may be better for a light-hearted game as opposed to a more serious competition. David Parlett describes Rummy on his Parlett Games website as:

“A relative newcomer in the timescale of history, has gained millions more converts throughout the world since its first appearance, largely owing to the fact that it combines extreme simplicity of form with deceptive complexity of play, and recently because it adapts very easily to computer software and on-line play. It's one of those great games that you can learn the rules of in a couple of minutes yet spend a lifetime learning how to play it better.”

Though rules can differ from house to house find a simple set of standard rules here.



Whist was popular in the 17th Century with the elite and has been altered into many other forms over the consecutive years (including Bridge) but the original game is still popular and many Whist clubs exist.

Similar to Bridge, Whist requires four people, two pairs to play and involves a certain amount of partnership. Unlike Bridge, there is a certain amount of luck or chance involved which helps to keep the game light-hearted.

Due to the age of Whist, many variations involve different sized hands, gambling elements and playing without a partner. The Bridge Guys explain the evolution of the game:

“In the following centuries, Whist went through stages of evolution and actually became popular with all classes. With the migration towards the New World, sailors and immigrants took along their card games and they became very popular to pass the time.

“Around the 1890s the game of Bridge was introduced to the United States. The rules of the game underwent many changes made by its players, who have in the time since become the pioneers and forerunners of the game of Bridge. Mr Harold Vanderbilt did much to perfect a system in 1925. He introduced rules, principles, treatments and even a scoring table. His established rules became so popular that his game of Contract Bridge was adopted by the majority of players.”

Whist is simpler than Bridge but with a touch more strategy than Rummy making it a great game to play socially and for those who feel a little intimidated by Bridge.

Bicycle Cards have a set of modern Whist rules for those looking to play.



Solitaire is a game that has been played for many years and is now also a popular phone and mobile game, great for passing the time and keeping the mind occupied. A one player card game that is a test of wittiness and speed, Solitaire is all about creating four piles of cards, one per suit and in ascending order.

Building the layout is the first step to a great game of Solitaire, start by placing one card facing up on your deck, followed by six cards facing down, follow these steps, but missing the pile before each time, leaving you with a triangle shape deck.

Move your cards around to start creating your four piles, picking up a card when you cannot move one on your deck, carry on doing this until you have created your four ascending piles.

If Solitaire sounds like a game you would enjoy, head to Playing Card Deck for a simple overview and video to follow.



Cribbage is the oldest game on the list and is often overlooked in favour of Bridge when people think of games of skill, however, it has much to offer even the most casual player. Cribbage Corner explains the origins of the game:

“Cribbage has been around since the 1600s. Poet Sir John Suckling of England first popularised it and described the rules of cribbage in roughly their modern form. Cribbage (originally spelt "cribbidge" - not "cribbage") is a fairly straightforward development of an earlier game called Noddy, Suckling's main contribution being the 'crib' that gives the modern game its name. It was originally played with five cards rather than six, as is now the standard, but the play and strategy are almost identical and the five-card game still survives, especially in the UK.”

Though Cribbage requires a board, it is still a card game, but this does make it less portable than other games on the list. However, this has not stopped some people from taking the game abroad.

Cribbage inspires fascination, so much so that Peter Worden was determined to spread his love of Cribbage across the world via his mission that he dubbed The Cribsionary. Find his story here or listen to an account of his tales of how strangers are brought together through the game of Cribbage.

If you find you have a lot more free time and you often struggle to get outdoors as you rely on curved and straight stairlifts to help you get about, why not try some of these simple card games with your family or friends and keep your mind as active as possible.

Best card games for older adults:


This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.