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Best Video Games for Seniors

By Dana LarsenDecember 15, 2015
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Researchers at North Carolina University discovered the benefits of video games for seniors, after some seniors improved their cognitive focus while playing the video game “World of Warcraft” for two hours a day, over a two-week period.

World of Warcraft (WoW) was proven to be good for seniors and is currently ranked as the world’s most popular multiplayer role-playing game with more than 15 million subscribers, according to stats from Guinness World Records. The benefits of the video game were assessed by Anne McLaughlin and Jason Allaire, psychology professors at North Carolina State University who run a “Gains Through Gaming Lab” to determine whether the game could make peoples’ “brains work better who were at a relatively advanced age.” The findings? Intriguing, to say the least…

Cognitive Improvements Seen in Seniors after Gaming

The gaming study involved over 30 older adults, aged 60-77, to play the video game WoW for roughly two hours a day over a two-week period. There were two groups involved in the study:

  1. Test Group — A group given a cognitive exam both before the test period began and after the experiment ended.
  2. Control Group — A group given the same cognitive exams, that didn’t play the game.

At the end of the two weeks, the people who had scored well on the baseline test had little change to their scores. But the people who had initially scored low showed significant improvement in both spatial ability and cognitive focus, after their exposure to the video game.

“The people who needed it most — those who performed the worst on the initial testing — saw the most improvement,” Allaire said.

Results of the study were published in the peer reviewed journal, “Computers in Human Behavior.”

Best Video Games for Seniors

We all know that exercising the mind is important. The brain is a muscle and needs stimulation, after all. WoW, in particular, is a very engaging game. In fact, Allaire and McLaughlin were selective when choosing the appropriate video game for their study:

“It [WoW] met the criteria we had,” Allaire said. “Primarily that it is really engaging and cognitively complex, so we chose a game that we thought would have the best chance of exercising older adults’ cognitive abilities and thereby improving them.”

WoW’s scaffolding (or tutorials that help someone who is not familiar with video games figure out how to make their way around the game) and customizable interface (allowing for larger text for game readability) also came in handy when choosing an appropriate game.

Many of the seniors who participated in the study really enjoyed the game and have become fans. Even though the study is complete, they continue to play the engaging game — a hobby that is now known to be healthy for both their IQ and mental capacities.

Here is a list of the best video games for seniors, which have had an effect on cognitive ability:

Have you or a senior loved one seen improved cognitive ability after playing a video game? Share your experiences with us in the comments below.

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Dana Larsen