Editor’s note: Home Sweet Home is a new regular feature appearing in McKnight’s Home Care Daily. The story will focus on a heartwarming, entertaining or quirky happening affecting the world of home care. If you have a topic that might be worthy of the spotlight in Home Sweet Home, please email Diane Eastabrook at [email protected].

First there was bingo. Then, there was Jazzercise. Now, there’s Bingocize! 

The game, which marries bingo with light exercise, was a modest hit at senior centers before the pandemic. But since COVID-19 closed those facilities, Bingocize has gone virtual and has become a sensation with the homebound, over-70 set.

“We’re  getting really positive responses, more than I even anticipated,” Erinna Poon, occupational therapist at Stanford, CA-based Stanford Health, told McKnight’s Home Care Daily. She had been teaching Bingocize at senior centers throughout northern California prior to the pandemic but quickly pivoted to leading them on Zoom.

“The seniors really enjoy the exercises and the convenience of being at home and not having to drive somewhere. It’s also nice for them to interact with each other (virtually) and see each other,” Poon added.

Exercise, plus game combined

In Poon’s classes, the exercise component focuses on leg strength, balance and coordination to prevent falls. The bingo component includes questions about risk factors that contribute to those accidents.

“We’ll have a couple of bingo rolls and then we’ll do an exercise. Then we’ll do another bingo roll and question, then more exercise,” Poon explained.

Bingocize is the brainchild of Jason Crandall, professor of exercise and kinesiology at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green. He told McKnight’s Home Care Daily  Bingocize “happened serendipitously” back in 2011 when some of his students developed an exercise program for a local senior center.

Jason Crandall, Ph.D, Western Kentucky University

“They went to the senior center and did everything they were supposed to do and no one showed up. I asked the students what they thought the problem was. One student said it was probably because everyone was down the hall playing bingo,” Crandall said.

Crandall decided “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” and Bingocize was born. “I put this thing together and the next week we had 15 people show up,” Crandall said.

Bingocize app

In 2014, Crandall trademarked the program and began licensing it. A couple years later he developed a Bingocize app and began promoting it during the pandemic. The program was approved by the National Council on Aging and is now licensed to organizations in 40 states and three countries.

Poon hopes she will soon be able to return to senior centers and play Bingocize face-to-face with members. But the virtual version has been so popular, she may also keep offering Bingocize on Zoom as well.