Why Seniors Should Try Video GamingAugust 18, 2022
While classic video games like Pong and Frogger have been widely available for 40 to 50 years, it’s within the past few decades that we’ve seen a major draw to gaming. It seems like each year, the video gaming industry breaks new records—whether it’s the overall amount of players, a new, immersive game, or a console smashing records.
There’s a new group of people who are breaking records: senior citizens. According to an AARP survey in 2019, 44% of adults over 50 played video games—a six percent increase from 2016. The number undoubtedly grew during the pandemic, when everyone was forced to isolate themselves in their homes.
Video gaming offers seniors more than a few hours of mindless fun. The cognitive, emotional, and physical benefits are key to why seniors should try video gaming.
Video games keep your mind sharp
Several studies have been executed to study the connection between the grey matter in the brain and video games. Grey matter is found in the regions of the brain that are crucial to muscle control, sight, hearing, emotions, speech, and decision-making. Studies suggest that the stimulation provided by video games may increase grey matter in the hippocampus.
The experiments used Super Mario 64 and World of Warcraft to study this phenomenon. Despite them being two vastly different games, they yielded similar results: those who played video games were likely to see some improvement in cognitive function.
Improved emotional health
Seniors who play video games regularly, and even occasionally, report better overall emotional well-being than those who do not play. Researchers at North Carolina State University linked higher rates of well-being and social functioning to gamers than their counterparts who do not play.
Though research is preliminary, some think it may have to do with improved memory and cognitive skills.
Better rates of physical activity
While one might not think there is a connection between “brain exercise” and physical wellness, there most certainly is. Arthritis patients experience improved pain and mobility in their hands due to the regular use of video game controllers.
Fitness games on the Nintendo Wii, Switch, and virtual reality technologies get people moving in low-impact exercises, which are perfect for seniors. Those who regularly play physical games experienced improved balance, gait, and even a reduction in falls.
Improved social life
Even single-player video games are inherently social. They give seniors an avenue of connection with others—perhaps even their grandchildren. Having this means of conversation is priceless, as sometimes generational differences can make conversing difficult. Depending on their game of choice, seniors can even play with their grandchildren when they meet.
Seniors can play online to connect with family and friends no matter where they are. Even games like Words with Friends offer a messaging feature, where seniors can chat with one another about the game’s results or engage in some playful goading. Online multiplayer games are a great way for seniors to connect with those they otherwise would not have had to chance to.
Different games yield different results
The benefits one can experience vary based on the type of game one plays. The physical improvements one experiences in VR games aren’t felt in games like Animal Crossing. However, Animal Crossing has more cognitive benefits than most VR games.
Playing a variety of games is key to experiencing a wider range of benefits. With a world of gaming out there, seniors can find something for whatever piques their interest.
Tips for first-time gamers
Remember: if you play games on your phone or iPad, you are already a gamer! However, if you want to explore the world of video gaming, here are some tips to get you started.
- Video gaming does not have to be expensive. Some video games can cost up to $80, but you don’t have to drop so much on a video game. There is a great range of prices for quality video games—even free, online options. Find out what it is that interests you and go from there.
- Make sure your purchased games are compatible with your system. Some games are only for certain systems. Before purchasing a game, make sure it is compatible with your system. For instance, computer games are marked PC, Xbox games are marked with the “X” logo, and PlayStation games are marked PS5 (depending on the generation).
- There will be a learning curve. If you’ve never played video games before, it is only natural that you will spend some time learning about the mechanics of how the game works. A loved one can help walk you through navigating a game. If one isn’t available, you can Google whatever questions you have.
- Look for adaptive devices if you have arthritis or a disability. Some hand conditions can make it difficult to use a controller. If that is the case with you, look for adaptive devices online. Ablegamers.org is a nonprofit that provides adaptive controllers for the Xbox system.
Help with your new hobby
For seniors with limited mobility, getting the technology they need to try video gaming is no easy feat. Getting to the store and even opening packages can be difficult.
An in-home caregiver can help you with your video-gaming venture. They can pick up any orders you place, as well as run any additional errands for you. If you have questions about how to operate your new technology, your caregiver can help guide you.
Curious about how an in-home caregiver can positively impact your life? Call us at 773-274-9262.
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