Did you know that playing computer games can have a range of health benefits, including improvements in memory, problem-solving ability and language skills?
Recent studies have shown that many of the benefits obtained from playing computer games are particularly useful for older people. Playing games can help ward off neurodegenerative diseases that are common in the older population, improve social connections and much more. This article will highlight a few of the benefits obtained from this fun-filled pastime!
How Many Elderly People Are Into Gaming?
While many people assume that only teenagers and children play computer games, the reality is much different. Research from 2010 found that 41% of gamers are between the ages of 18 and 49, and an astonishing 26% of people who play computer games are over the age of 50!
The 2010 study also found that 52% of seniors playing video games used them as a way to test their logic and memory skills. Older people tend to prefer card games, computerised board games and puzzles. This may be due to the fact that their reaction time is somewhat slower than younger people, which makes it difficult to compete in arcade style games.
Many elderly gamers enjoy playing “active” computer games like those available on the Wii. Games on the Wii use a motion-sensitive controller to manipulate objects on the screen. The player holds the controller in their hand and moves their arm or entire body to control the action on the screen.
The Benefits Of Computer Gaming For The Elderly
Some of the many benefits obtained from playing computer games include:
Improved cognitive ability
Researchers at the North Carolina University decided to test the effects of playing computer games on the cognitive ability of elderly people. Participants were to spend time playing a popular game called World of Warcraft for a few hours each day. This is a Massive Multiplayer Online game, where thousands of players from around the world control avatars in a virtual space. They communicate, barter, fight and travel in this virtual world.
There were 30 participants between the ages of 60 and 77. They were divided into a control group, (who did not play the game) and a test group, who played the game for 2 hours each day for a period of two weeks.
At the conclusion of the trial, the majority of those in the test group saw a significant improvement in spatial ability and cognitive focus.
Computer games encourage social interaction
Many online computer games are very social and involve complex interactions between individuals. They often allow players to communicate via text chat or through a Voice Over IP (VOIP) system. This allows older gamers to expand their social circle and meet new people online whilst gaming.
There are even “clans” of older gamers who communicate via VOIP while playing computer games. One such clan is The Older Gamers, whose eldest member is 80! Gaming can help older people remain social from the comfort of their own home.
Computer games can improve fitness and hand-eye coordination
Gaming consoles like the Nintendo Wii are particularly effective for helping people improve their hand-eye coordination. Users can boost their coordination by physically moving a controller to manipulate objects on the screen. This is a useful function for elderly people who have a physical impairment that prevents them from enjoying sports.
Some of the games available on Wii involve other types of movement including dancing, moving your legs and waving your arms. They are a fun way for an elderly person to maintain their fitness and great fun for the whole family to get involved with.
Gaming helps elderly people to remain technologically literate
Using computer games helps elderly people keep in touch with new technology. Users will naturally learn how to use different kinds of controllers and interfaces while gaming. When confronted by a new piece of technology, this experience can make it much easier to adapt.
Computer games can be educational
There are many computer games which are designed to impart knowledge. An elderly gamer can learn more about history, mathematics, languages or science while gaming. They will also be constantly testing their ability to solve problems while gaming, which helps with cognitive ability.
Computer games can help reduce pain
One study from the American Pain Society suggests that playing games can help reduce feelings of pain that an elderly person experiencing. Games are so engaging that your mind will become focus on playing instead of the pain. This is useful for elderly gamers who may be experiencing problems with a painful condition like osteoarthritis. Playing games can also reduce stress, which is very useful at any age!
So why not give gaming a chance? Particularly now you know that it is possible to improve your health whilst learning new skills and meeting new people!