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4 Ways Video Gaming Benefits Older Adults

Sage Singleton
By Sage SingletonOctober 12, 2017
Ways Video Gaming Benefits Older Adults

Forget the stereotypical image of a gamer — today, 26% of video game players are adults over 50, and perhaps even more surprising, more women than men are senior gamers.

Video games have been shown to offer numerous health and wellness benefits, including building relationships, improving mental capabilities and increasing happiness in players. Whether you’re a new or veteran gamer, learn more about how video games can improve your lifestyle.

Ways Video Games Benefit Older Adults

Playing video games requires downloading a game on a mobile device, installing a game on a computer or purchasing a game for a gaming console – an electronic device that attaches to your TV.

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If you or a loved one is just getting started gaming, review the types of gaming systems available and their various price points since your funds and mobility will factor into which device you should choose.

Then, review how gaming brings emotional, mental and physical health benefits to older adults:

1. Happier Lives

Gamers older than 63 report higher levels of emotional well-being. A study compared the psychological functions between older adults who play video games versus older adults who don’t play. Results found the gamers were happier and more social, and that mood improvements were evident even for older adults who only play occasionally — less than once a week. The most striking difference is that the nongamers reported higher levels of depression and negative emotions.

Play this: “Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved.” The rhythmic game turns players into musical conductors as they direct classic songs and contemporary hits. Players control the joyful game by using arm and hand motions. This game is available for Xbox One and Xbox 360.

2. Improved Balance and Walking Speed

Playing video games that require fast decision-making and visual attention can improve physical performance or slow its decline in older adults. A study found noticeable results among older adults after playing video games for an hour a day three times a week for 10 weeks. Adults with the slowest walking time had the most significant speed improvements. Video games, the study concluded, could be a “promising approach to fall prevention” for older adults.

Play this: “Tetris.” In this puzzle game, players must fit geometric shapes together. As the player moves up to new levels, the puzzle becomes more challenging and they must fit the pieces together at an increasing speed. Tetris is available for play on computers, gaming systems and mobile devices.

3. Increased Intellectual Abilities

Older adults with poor cognitive focus and spatial ability improved these critical skills after playing video games, a study found. Adults aged 60–77 who played a complex strategy video game for two hours a day over two weeks increased in their cognitive focus and spatial ability significantly — if they scored low before playing the game. Those who scored well in their cognitive skills prior to playing the game saw little change to their scores afterwards. So if you feel like your cognitive abilities are lacking, video games could be the answer.

Play this: “World of Warcraft” (WoW). This multiplayer, online, role-playing game takes gamers to the mythical world Azeroth, where fantasy creatures, like dwarves, elves, gnomes and goblins, fill the world. WoW is available for play on computers.

4. Reversed Brain Aging

Video games can alter the brain’s neural network, reversing the negative signs of aging. A study found participants between ages 60 and 85 who played a 3D multitasking game for 12 hours over a month improved their performance so much that they beat 20-somethings who played the game for the first time. The attention span and memory of these older participants also increased, allowing them to maintain their newly improved brain functions six months after the training finished.

Play this: “Brain Age” or “Lumosity.” As brain fitness training workouts, both programs feature various games that increase in difficulty, improving the brain’s cognitive abilities. “Brain Age” is available for Nintendo Wii U and Nintendo DS; “Lumosity” is available for mobile device play.

Tech for seniors continues to grow as a major sector in the gaming industry. Some physicians, aided by research, believe video games are a better solution to neurological disorders than prescription drugs. Though the health and wellness benefits are great, most older gamers say they are gaming for the same reason young teens play video games: they simply game to have fun.

Are you or a loved one a senior gamer? Have you seen the ways video gaming benefits older adults? We’d like to hear your stories in the comments below.

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Sage Singleton
Sage Singleton

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