There was a surprise moment for me today in the middle of a day-long pre-conference intensive at the Pioneer Network conference in Indianapolis (2010). First we talked about “the meaning of meaningful” – as we tried to figure out how to make everyday activities meaningful in long term care. Then we took a turn. “Not every activity has to be meaningful,” someone said. “We play Bingo 7 days a week. We tried to cut it down to 5, and the residents made picket signs and protested.”
I was stunned. Is it REALLY that popular? Why? I asked people to dissect Bingo. WHY do they want to play it 7 days a week? What are the elements of Bingo that we can apply to other activities that the residents are clearly not engaging with?
What did they say? They like to WIN. They might never have won anything for years. They like the spontaneity – the element of surprise. They like the relaxing quality – an activity they can do without explanation, and don’t need help. (who likes that I asked…staff or residents?)
The discussion went on and on – some folks defending Bingo with all their heart.
I’m not saying Bingo is evil. I’m saying that if your residents are THAT reliant on Bingo, you need to seriously look at what other programming you are offering – and if it is reflecting the interests/needs of the residents.
I also asked just how people might be able to wrap meaningfulness around Bingo. Earlier in the day, someone mentioned that seeing an aide and a resident in close discussion is an ideal. That is engagement, and it models relationships for the whole group. HOW could we possibly get to that through Bingo?
Have residents make up their own cards – use a different word of their choice – and custom make the boards. Give them as a gift to another group. Invite in people to play with. Create your own celebratory ritual for winners. Create social roles around Bingo – (Bingo Captain of the week; Prize Distributor).
I still think that Bingo addiction is a sign that other programming is off. It’s thinking small. It’s not thinking about learning and growth and engagement. But…if you DO have all that…an occasional Bingo game won’t kill you…;)