Four Health Benefits of Video Gaming for Seniors

Updated on January 17, 2023

Although video games are traditionally associated with young people, older gamers are playing video games more than ever before. According to a study by the American Association of Retired Persons and the Entertainment Software Association in 2016, 38% of seniors said they played video games regularly, and half of those said they played games more than they did five years before. Some older gamers are even returning to gaming after taking an extended break, rediscovering old games like Diablo 2 (and finding new diablo 2 items they never found before) and wondering why they ever stopped gaming in the first place. While most seniors simply play video games for fun, gaming does provide them with several health benefits at the same time. Let’s take a closer look at four of those benefits.

Gaming Could Be Good for Mental Health

Mental health and physical health are of equal importance. Many seniors are stuck at home with little social life, so the very act of playing games can make many seniors feel like they have a bit of company. And online games allow seniors to remain socially active. According to a paper published by ScienceDirect in 2013, gamers older than 63 years of age reported higher levels of emotional well-being. The report found gaming seniors were happier, had fewer mood swings, and were more social. Conversely, non-gaming seniors reported higher levels of depression and negative emotions. In addition to playing socially-interactive online games, many seniors stream the games they play on platforms like Twitch, enabling them to attract followers and interact with people more. Seniors can stream any kinds of games, and not only video games. For instance, on platforms like Twitch, seniors can stream live casino games like roulette and blackjack, which are played with real dealers in real-time.

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Gaming Could Increase Cognitive Focus

In 2015, researchers at North Carolina University discovered video games could improve the cognitive focus of seniors. Adults aged between 60 and 77 played the game World of Warcraft for two hours every day over a two-week period. The study found the participants significantly improved their cognitive and spatial abilities.

And in 2013, scientists at UC San Francisco reported they had found a way to reverse some of the negative effects of aging on the brain by using a 3D video game specifically designed to improve cognitive control. Participants aged between 60 and 85 played the 3D multitasking game for 12 hours over a month. They improved their performances so much that they even beat gamers in their 20s. Memory and attention span in older adults was improved, enabling brain aging to be significantly reversed.

Gaming Could Improve Walking Speed and Balance

Because video games require quick decision-making and visual attention, it is thought gaming can improve physical performance in older adults, or slow the decline of physical performance. According to a study in the Journal of Gerontology in 2013, seniors who played video games for one hour, three times a week over a 10-week period, saw an improvement in their walking speed and balance.

Gaming Could Help to Reduce the Onset of Alzheimer’s Disease

Due to the fast pace and complex controls of many video games, gaming can create cognitive stimulation for seniors. Recent research even suggests that the cognitive simulation of playing video games could delay or slow the onset of degenerative neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s. According to a 2017 study published by PLOS ONE, playing Super Mario 64 increases hippocampal grey matter in older people. The study looked at the connection between gaming and the growth of tissue in different areas of the brain, including the hippocampus, which is associated with Alzheimer’s progression. Seniors aged between 55 and 75 were divided into three groups. One group took digital piano courses and one group played Super Mario 64 regularly, while the third group did not participate in any new activity. The results showed those who played the video game had a significant increase in hippocampus gray matter compared to the other groups.

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