Video gaming is often seen as mindless entertainment for the masses. It’s mostly associated with the younger generations who are content to sit for hours staring blankly at a computer screen. But Justin C. Williams laser enthusiast says that not all video games are alike, nor are the reasons for playing them. Here, Justin C. Williams looks at how digital games affect those in the elderly population who play them.
When Justin C. Williams talks about video gaming for seniors, he first looks at the reason behind why the person plays. Unlike teens and young adults, he says seniors play for a variety of reasons. One of the primary reasons seniors play is to help their memory and focus. Anytime the brain is engaged in learning, Justin C. Williams says, synapses are forming between the neurons. These new connections then help with other brain functions.
Justin C. Williams laser enthusiast talks about the research done on the effects of gaming on seniors. Anne McLaughlin, Ph.D., a psychologist at North Carolina University who works with learning, the elderly, and applications of games, says the brain-boosting benefits depend on the type of play. She and her colleague, Jason Allaire, researched the effects of gaming on older adults. Using World of Warcraft, they ran a Gains Through Gaming Lab to determine whether it could make peoples’ “brains work better who were at a relatively advanced age.” After two weeks, the results showed “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.”
Other studies show that over half of the seniors that play video games choose games that test their logic and memory skills. These would include games like chess, matching games, and word games like Scrabble. Justin C. Williams laser enthusiast says many of the popular card and board games can now be found online in a digital format. These games not only provide seniors with entertainment but also, when played with others online, help keep them connected to the outside world.
Some online video games require physical activity, such as seen with the Nintendo Wii system. The Wii has dozens of different modules that help improve muscle tone, coordination, balance, and strength as long as the senior can perform physical activity of this type. Other video games can only be accessed via the internet and require a desktop, laptop, or another type of mobile device. Depending on the senior’s age and location (Assisted Living Facilities or Residential Care Homes, for example,) outside access to the internet may not be feasible.
Justin C. Williams laser enthusiast says for these reasons, gaming in seniors is something we should encourage. “In any event,” he says, “it’s not something that’s going away anytime soon.”