Move Over, Kids: Digital Games Found Good for Seniors

Video Game-Playing Associated with Better Mental Health in Older Adults

Yahoo Contributor Network

Youngsters may be just as likely to find video game systems at their grandparents' homes as at their own, but not necessarily intended for the pleasure of the youngest family members only. If grandpa and grandma don't already own a video game system, gifting such a system to them may be in their best interest, health-wise.

According to research results provided by North Carolina State University , baby boomers and seniors who reported playing video games even occasionally scored higher levels of well-being than people in the same age group who did not play any such games.

Research Method and Conclusions into Digital Game-Playing and Measures of Successful Aging

The purpose of the study was to determine any differences in psychological functioning between people age 63 years and older who played digital games and people in the same age group who did not play digital games. Analyses of psychological functioning differences were measured in areas of well-being, affect, social functioning and depression.

The study involved independently-living older adults, at least 63 years of age and with an average age of 77. The 140 participants were sectioned into three groups; those individuals who said they played digital games regularly, those who played occasionally and those who don't play digital games at all. Roughly the breakdown of the three groups was of equal numbers. People who played at least once a week were termed regular players and those who played video games less than once a week were termed occasional players.

Overall, the older adults who participated in video gaming scored better in the psychological functioning tests than did their non-playing counterparts. Researchers concluded that the findings suggest digital game playing may serve as a "positive activity associated with successful aging."

Plans for Future Research About the Effects of Digital Gaming on Aging

While the research completed suggested a link between digital gaming and the emotional aspects of aging, more research is needed to definitely associate the two. Lead author and associate professor of psychology at NCSU Dr. Jason Allaire explained that plans are in the works to develop research to determine definitively whether digital game playing affects the mental and emotional health of older adults.

Additional Research on Value of Digital Game Playing

In a Febuary article published in PLOSOne.org , researchers suggest that use of the Nintendo Wii system, assessed by earlier research to improve eye-hand coordination and spatial attention, may be a useful, inexpensive and entertaining tool to use in the training of young surgeons who will be performing laparoscopic surgery after graduation, in addition to the usual surgical training.

In the study performed in Italy, post-graduate students trained in other areas of surgery, but not yet in laparoscopic surgery, were assigned to play specific Wii games that involved use of both hands for one hour daily, five days per week. After four weeks, the group who had played the Wii games showed more improvement in laparoscopic techniques than the students who did not.

Bottom Line

Digital gaming has been part of American culture for decades. Once thought to be the domain of adolescents and young adults, video gaming may prove to be as much of a boon for all ages as it is sometimes the bane of completed homework.

The American Heart Association endorsed the Wii in 2010 as part of a heart-healthy physical activity regimen. Maybe in the near future, health care providers and mental health professionals may be endorsing digital gaming for older adults as part of a successful aging regiment; future research may point the way.

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