At a focus group with a group of dementia consumers today, Bingo was mentioned as an activity used in aged and dementia care. The room was full of people who themselves may one day be facing aged or dementia care, myself included. Although it wasn’t the topic we were there to discuss, I decided to ask everyone on the room if they currently played Bingo. Not one hand went up, but a couple of comments quickly came back; yes, but it is good for them to socialise, or I’m sure they must enjoy it. How interesting that not one person in the room actually plays Bingo currently, but might one day be coerced (forced) into doing it. I feel concerned someone will force me to play Bingo one day, and if I don’t want to, then I’ll be labelled as difficult, or refusing to co-operate, or refusing to interact with others, or some other nasty, ill-informed and negative label, simply demeaning the fact I don’t want to play Bingo. And if I do appear to want to play Bingo at the time this happens, will it simply because I really hate being left alone in my room, or maybe even that I am scared of the consequences if I don’t comply. Bingo will never be a meaningful, engaging activity for me, and if someone ever coerces me into playing it, and I appear to be enjoying it, it will only be because the alternative is worse.
Activities need to be physical, creative (for each individual), functional, spiritual, and above all, intellectual. They also need to enhance the quality of life for each person, encourage personal expression, to bring some fun into the persons day, and promote intellectual stimulation. I don’t mean academic, I mean intellectual. Activities that are not patronising, that match the persons previous intellect and likes, not those of the wider group. They also need to be age appropriate, and allow a person to feel empowered and in control of something, not just participating in some meaningless (to them) activity they feel obliged to join in with. A person who loves to write poetry may not be interested in painting or singing, and vice versa. Sitting quietly all day listening to music might be a treasured thing to do for one person, and a boring existence for another. Wanting to sit quietly all day though, does not mean the person is not engaging. If I ever enter residential aged care, I fear the label of difficult will be pinned to me on the very first day. Welcome to Bingo… I think not!