Is Bingo Therapeutic?

"My son attends a day program and loves the weekly Bingo game that the recreation therapist puts on the calendar. Is that really a kind of therapy or is it just fun?”

Bingo is a popular and fun activity played by people with and without disabilities of all ages. It is played by hundreds and thousands of people all over the US every day in skilled nursing facilities, community centers, assisted and independent living facilities, and even local bars and parks, among other places. Bingo, as a group activity, helps join people together through a common bond (love for bingo) and can result in better communication, closer friendships, and increased self-confidence*. As part of a recreation therapy program, bingo may help players with their hand-eye coordination, concentration, mental health, short-term memory skills, and more. Because bingo is a social activity, it may have a positive impact on a person’s health and wellbeing, including decreasing stress, depression, and anxiety.

Recreational therapists may use bingo as a form of group recreational therapy to help individuals within the group to socialize, support their mental health, improve their cognitive and physical skills, and more. Recreational therapists may also modify bingo to accommodate the needs and interests of everyone. These modifications may include:

  • Mental Health Bingo – allows recreational therapists to support the mental health of people with disabilities and older adults by discussing activities that are helpful to each person, what types of activities they would like to try or start doing again, and why these activities are important to their mental health. This type of bingo also helps recreational therapists promote discussion with the interdisciplinary team on how bingo and other recreational therapies support mental health.
  • Bingo and Bazaar – allows players with and without disabilities to play Bingo for money, which they can use at a local bazaar or in the community to buy items of their choice. This helps people with and without disabilities with their cognitive abilities.
  • Gift Exchange Bingo – played during the holidays, this type of bingo helps with cognitive and physical abilities and provides a way to exchange presents without the emotional stress of the season.
  • Musical bingo – helps players with their memory and socializing through a musician playing music that the group knows.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone has been social distancing, and, in response, bingo has gone virtual. Virtual bingo has helped recreational therapists reach their clients and continue the recreational therapeutic benefits of bingo while staying safe and healthy.

Contact NARIC’s information specialists for more information on the benefits of bingo and recreational therapy.

*Hastings, Complete Handbook of Activities and Recreational Programs for Nursing Homes, 1981.