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Author Topic: Gaming at the Senior Citizens Center?  (Read 3668 times)
foucalt
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« on: May 16, 2005, 11:15:09 AM »

Recently there was some attention paid to the fact that staying "mentally active"  http://www.alz.org/maintainyourbrain/overview.asp">helps ward off Alzheimer's disease. I remember wondering whether roleplaying games might be a good way to stay mentally and socially active in an environment such as a retirement home. I even considered (but have so far not felt like I have time for) trying to ask around my local senior's centers to see if there would be any interest in having a GM come in and start a beginner-friendly recurring RPG for whoever's interested there. Has anybody else given thought to RPGs as community service in this way? I know there have been programs for troubled youth, & I think I remember hearing about at least one prison that had a program to help inmates explore their feelings by RPing, but I hadn't ever heard of anyone volunteering with senior citizens to involve roleplaying in their lives. Has anyone done such a thing? Would you be willing to try it? Do you think it would help? Do you think there would be any interest or support either from the seniors themselves or from the institutions involved?  Just something that's been rolling around in my head for a couple months. I'm new here, so sorry if this is the wrong forum to post in.
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David Younce

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Adam Dray
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« Reply #1 on: May 16, 2005, 12:43:21 PM »

Welcome to the Forge, foucalt! (I can't determine what your real name is for a proper greeting.)

I think this is a great idea. The trick, I would think, is finding seniors who want to play. I can't imagine my grandparents playing a role-playing game but maybe it's because I haven't figured out the right role-playing game for them. Something like SOAP or Wuthering Heights might appeal.

Of course, in thirty years, I may feel very differently.
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Adam Dray / adam@legendary.org
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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #2 on: May 16, 2005, 01:35:11 PM »

I'm wondering if it's a generational problem. That is, I know that I'll be playing RPGs when I'm in a wheelchair, but my grandmother grew up and lived through the depression and the "Big One." I'm not sure she'd be interested at all in such shennanegins as playing a RPG. I mean this is the generation that told our fathers that comic books weren't stuff for grown ups. Took the generation in between loving them and allowing us to like them into adulthood.

Maybe when my parents are getting senile. That shouldn't be for another ten years yet, however. And then they'll be playing bridge, I'm sure.

I think it's a great idea. I'm just not sure about the feasibility.

Mike
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foucalt
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« Reply #3 on: May 16, 2005, 02:56:18 PM »

True I guess, but it seems like it's not  entirely different than spending your time on a crossword puzzle.

David
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David Younce

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Andrew Morris
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« Reply #4 on: May 16, 2005, 06:16:20 PM »

David, welcome to the Forge.

Now, I actually think they are worlds apart. Not functionally, but in terms of social setting. Crossword puzzles are solitary and socially accepted. When we see games or modules in the New York Times, we'll probably see gaming clubs in senior centers.
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foucalt
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« Reply #5 on: May 16, 2005, 06:48:39 PM »

So I guess maybe we need a pro-roleplaying doctor to come out and recommend it in the press first...

Maybe you start by going in and doing "well known" boardgames for a few weeks, then move to something with a little more long term strategy like Puerto Rico or Settlers of Catan or Risk, then a murder mystery boxed set game where at least everyone has a character (although the subject might be a little touchy, who knows) then maybe a simple roleplaying one-shot game, and go from there. It seems like (and maybe this is overly optimistic) you'd get at least a few people who would join in just to have something else to do.  Sure, it isn't socially acceptable, but don't you think it would help it to move that direction if people started finding out their grandparents gamed? Of course, at first, you have to deal with the concerned children of the seniors thinking you're trying to indoctrinate their parents into some kind of cult, but hopefully that's not too big of a hurdle. Not to brush the whole "socially acceptable" argument aside, but my theory is that if you bring good enough refreshments, you can probably start a gaming group in just about any context.
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David Younce

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Andrew Morris
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« Reply #6 on: May 16, 2005, 07:02:25 PM »

I think a big stumbling block in pitching RPGs to seniors will be the tendency for most seniors to crave predictible social frameworks. Ritual, routine, socially acceptable interactions -- these seem to be the bread and butter of most senior's lives, in my experience. Of course, I'm not an expert, but I think it's something that would need to be addressed.
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TonyLB
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« Reply #7 on: May 16, 2005, 07:13:52 PM »

Okay, I don't want to come across as in any way preachy, but I think it's unlikely that anyone's going to become an avid gamer (and, really, why would you aim for encouraging anything less) because they want mental exercise to ward off Alzheimers.  That's not speaking to anyone as an individual, it's treating "seniors" as if they're all stamped out of an assembly line.  I'll counter with Actual Play experience.

When I (as a youth) drafted my grandparents to play D&D they did reasonably well.  They had a wholly understandable gap in their recent fantasy reading, but we backed up to the arthurian mythos of knights, princesses, dragons and evil wizards, and that bridged the gap nicely.  It wasn't a game that really thrilled them (except inasmuch as any game played by a grandchild is thrilling), but they were pretty good at it when I could convince them to humor me.

So I don't buy the idea that seniors are less imaginative, or less willing to break with societal norms.  In fact, I suspect they're statistically more likely to be qualified as gamers, in both respects.  But you're not going to attract any individual by trying to address them as an avatar of their demographic.  Go talk to the seniors you know, show them that you're excited about gaming and excited about them, and see if they want to give it a try.  That's the same advice I'd give for drafting people of any age.
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komradebob
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« Reply #8 on: May 16, 2005, 07:20:56 PM »

Perhaps we're looking at this from the wrong end of the telescope? The basic idea here seems to be that oldsters will be introduced to this new fangled roleplaying thing. What if the situation were reversed? Instead of trying to teach these seniors to play our rpgs, we challenge them to come up with situations from their own lives, and we try to figure out what we would've done if we'd been them or the person in the story. These seniors we're talking about have lived through some of the most interesting eras in history. Maybe we should think about letting them "gamemaster"...
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Robert Earley-Clark

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Mike Holmes
Acts of Evil Playtesters
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« Reply #9 on: May 17, 2005, 07:29:31 AM »

Good thoughts, all. I think that ramping up through boardgaming might be a way to do it. That might not appeal to people who are interested in getting them roleplaying, but it's certainly more accessible, I think, to the average senior who may already play chess, checkers, and other such boardgames already.

Mike
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Andrew Morris
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« Reply #10 on: May 17, 2005, 07:51:50 AM »

Quote from: TonyLB
But you're not going to attract any individual by trying to address them as an avatar of their demographic.

Absolutely not -- I agree. But (of course there's a "but"), you do attract percentages of target groups by addressing their demographic. That's why marketing and advertising work.

As to moving up from boardgames and such, sure, that might work. I also think RPGs that don't look so much like RPGs might be the way to go. I'm thinking things like Universalis and Emily Care's relationship games (Breaking the Ice and Shooting the Moon). Especially if you can get play of that nature without dice (or at least sticking with the standard d6).
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