Photograph by Gary Kessler
Seniors playing bingo is a common stereotype of retirement communities. But here at Episcopal Church Home senior living community in Louisville, we do bingo a little bit differently.
Twice a week, ECH residents participate in a program called Bingocize®, which strategically integrates exercise and health education into a fun game of bingo regardless of participants’ background, physical or intellectual abilities.
The goal of the program is not only to help reduce falls and improve overall physical and cognitive health but also to help seniors build relationships with each other and with students from Spalding University who help facilitate the program.
The Birth of Bingocize
Bingocize was founded by Jason Crandall, Ph.D. HFS, assistant professor of exercise science at the School of Kinesiology, Recreation & Sport at Western Kentucky University and DeWight Anderson, B.S.
In 2011, Crandall was working with students at another school on an exercise class for older adults, but it failed to attract a single participant.
“We discovered that nobody showed up because everybody was down the hall playing bingo,” Crandall says. “That’s when it hit me. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”
That’s how Bingocize was born, and within a week, the class had 15 participants. Now, Crandall’s team has successfully implemented the program at 12 additional personal care and independent living facilities in Bowling Green and Owensboro, Kentucky.
Senior living communities from across the country and as far away as Australia contacted WKU to learn more about the program. Over 25 communities across the country have implemented the program, and research faculty in Poland, Finland and England are participating with a mobile app version of the program.
WKU has received multiple grant awards from organizations dedicated to improving the quality of care delivered to individuals living in senior living communities including the Kentucky Science and Engineering Foundation, the Retirement Research Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The Bingocize Experience
Bingocize classes are tailored to residents’ needs and abilities, says Dustin Falls, Project Director, CMP, Bingocize Project.
At ECH, movements are interspersed throughout two bingo games, explains Tracy Graham, Director of Life Enrichment at ECH and lead Bingocize facilitator.
Bingocize facilitators encourage residents to do a series of exercises such as seated leg extensions, head turns, and hand exercises for general range of motion, flexibility and strength. Graham and other ECH staff then record the progress of Bingocize participants.
Falls says the overall goal is to improve residents’ quality of life. Exercise and movement, particularly the interruption of gameplay, challenges participants on a physical and cognitive level, he says.
“Exercise is one of the few things that we know can improve global cognition,” Falls says.
The Benefits of Bingocize
Research has confirmed the many benefits from Bingocize, including:
- Improved gait
- Improved lower and upper body muscle strength
- Social engagement
- Health knowledge
- Patient engagement
Crandall notes that the increased social engagement for residents is essential in warding off loneliness and depression. Crandall and his team have published studies demonstrating the many benefits of Bingocize in publications including the International Journal of Exercise Science and in Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine.
And when students are involved with Bingocize, there’s intergenerational bonus as well. Students who have had little contact with older adults are eased into the environment in a fun way, “bridging the gap for people who may be apprehensive or timid to come into a care center,” Falls explains.
ECH has also incorporated Bingocize into its mentor program, which further encourages students and residents to build relationships, Graham says.
“We have had students who...continue to come here and keep that relationship with those residents,” she says. “That in itself is awesome.”