#571 The Benefits of Video Games for Older Adults

The Benefits of Video Games for Older Adults

The Not Old Better Show, Interview Series

Welcome to The Not Old Better Show.  I’m Paul Vogelzang and today’s show is brought to you by NORD VPN and Inside Tracker.  

I think you’ll enjoy today’s show as we’re talking about gaming, video games specifically.  When you think of a "gamer," you probably don't think of a 65-year-old man or woman spending their afternoon on the Wii, or PS 2, or X Box, or Nintendo Switch. But think again — an estimated 21% of people who play video games are over the age of 50. What’s more, it turns out that some of those older "gamers" are reaping very significant health benefits as a result.

Here are just some of the social, cognitive, and physical benefits that video games and virtual reality (VR) have to offer seniors.

  1. BETTER EMOTIONAL WELL-BEING. Whether it's going for a walk, meeting friends for lunch, or seeing a movie, doing anything you enjoy improves emotional health. So it's no surprise many seniors who enjoy playing video games find themselves in better moods.  A study of 140 seniors over 63 years old concluded that both regular and occasional video gamers reported greater well-being, social functioning, and health than non-gamers. In addition, they reported significantly lower rates of depression among people who play video games than those who don't.
  2. IMPROVED BALANCE. Video games can provide physical benefits, too, especially to seniors. Certain games that require physical interaction, like Wii Sports and similar titles, can help seniors improve balance, coordination, and reflexes due to the quick decision-making and action required to play. Some seniors have even reported faster walking speeds as a result of playing video games.  It may not be obvious at first, but improving cognitive skills can translate into improved balance and gait. And while fitness video games like Nintendo Wii and even the newer Nintendo Switch have revolutionized exercise for seniors, virtual reality (VR) is already leaving its mark on physical therapy. 
  3. ENHANCED COGNITIVE ABILITY. Video games have the potential to support improvement not only emotionally and physically, but cognitively, as well. In fact, a University of California San Francisco study showed significant improvement in cognitive ability, effectively reversing signs of aging in seniors who played 3D video games.
  4. REDUCED RISK OF ALZHEIMER'S  With an estimated 5.5 million seniors suffering from Alzheimer's in the U.S. alone, treatment methods are heavily scrutinized and highly valued. Amazingly, recent research has even demonstrated a link between playing video games and a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s.   The study looked at connections between gaming and tissue growth in different areas of the brain — especially the hippocampus, an area associated with memory and Alzheimer’s progression. 
  5. ALL THE BENEFITS — PLUS LOTS OF FUN

Our “guest today, Andy Carle, from The Virginian in Fairfax Virginia, says “they love it,"   Andrew Carle, Executive Director, The Virginian, serves as lead instructor and founder of the nation’s only graduate Concentration in Senior Living Administration, within the Georgetown University Program in Aging & Health. In 2004, he coined the term “Nana” Technology and has consulted on technologies for older adults with companies including APPLE, Nintendo, GTX Corporation, and Vigorous Mind, among others. 

Andy Carle tells us that part of their enjoyment comes from the fact that the game isn't competitive – just great fun for players. "We encourage everyone to cheer for each other," "That helps everyone have even more fun because they're cheering for everyone."  The installation of the new, innovative system, “Obie for Seniors” is part of The Virginian’s ‘high touch, high tech’  state-of-the-art expanded Memory Care program. The Virginian will be among the first senior living communities in the nation to utilize the technology which has been demonstrated by senior staff to improve cognitive stimulation and motor skills while keeping seniors active and motivated to participate in activities.  Obie for Seniors is an award-winning interactive gaming system that turns any physical space into an immersive and highly entertaining experience for seniors. 

We’ll talk about that and more on today’s show, so please join me in welcoming to The Not Old Better Show, Andy Carle.  

My thanks to NORD VPN and Inside Tracker for sponsoring today’s show.  Please support our sponsors.  My thanks to Andy Carle and his team for arranging this great topic.  My thanks to you, my wonderful Not Old Better Show audience.  Please stay safe, be well and let’s talk about better.  The Not Old Better Show.  Thanks, everybody.