Aging and Technology: Digital Games Improve Senior Health

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Updated: August 21, 2019


Aging and Technology: Digital Games Improve Senior Health

Lots of people think that video games are a waste of time, but that is not necessarily true. Simon Fraser University has recently published research indicating that video games might actually have several health benefits for seniors specifically. Video games do two major things for seniors: they reduce social isolation and promote mental stimulation; thus slow mental decline – two of the greatest health concerns facing seniors.


Social Isolation

Seniors often have to battle social isolation. Social isolation has been linked to loneliness and depression, which is related to health problems like poor diet, a poor sleep schedule, stress-related illnesses, and reduced immune responses. Several games that can be played online connect the user with other players, allowing for interaction, discussion, and the formation of communities. This is an improvement from playing physical games at nursing facilities because residents may have a shortage of other people to play with at any one time. Studies show that while seniors receive definite health benefits from playing games together, few actually do. With online games, seniors can chat and play games with many of people at any time.

Some senior living facilities have even set up in-person video game sessions, like holding Wii tournaments for their residents. Video game consoles allow people who otherwise would not be able to access or use sporting facilities to participate in engaging activities with other people, like virtual bowling. Many of these games can be played regardless of whether the person is in a wheelchair or similarly handicapped.


Mental Stimulation

Video games are also very mentally stimulating. Many seniors enjoy playing online games that they remember from their childhood, like: chess, solitaire, or scrabble. These are strategy-heavy games, promoting high levels of mental activity, and helping to slow any mental degradation. Even simple games, like Angry Birds, improve reaction time. Faster reaction times can help prevent seniors from experiencing falls or similar injuries.

Seniors are one of the fastest-growing demographic of computer users, which is a good sign. Stagnation, both mentally and socially, is one of the greatest threats facing seniors. It can lead to depression, different forms of dementia, and several related health problems. Technology can help connect seniors socially and keep mentally sharp. The implication is that assisted living facilities would be doing a huge service for their residents if they did more to incorporate technology into their facilities and activities.

Residents with regular access to computers and the encouragement to use them are more likely to find a community online and have fun exercising their brains. The benefits of digital games are important for the families of seniors to keep in mind as well. Family members that are worried about the health and happiness of their aging relative would do well to supply them with a basic laptop, or to make sure they have access to a local computer lab. Public libraries often have computer labs that are open to the public, which might be a good option for a senior that lives close to a library but can not afford a computer. Even doing something as simple as downloading some games to a senior’s phone and showing them how to play could have far-reaching health benefits.