Video games and ageing - an unexpected match

Video games and ageing - an unexpected match

By Dr. Alissia Valentinis, MD, CCFP, FCFP, National Home Doctor Medical Director

There might be a new target market for video games, and it may not be who you think! Whilst the impact of video games is widely debated, new research has found that video games can help with one of life’s inevitable processes - the ageing process. For example...

Do you know video games may help rejuvenate ageing brains?

Ageing is a daunting process, not least because some of the first things to be affected are also the most useful - memory and motor skills to name a couple. We also know that designing activities to reverse the mental effects of ageing is tricky. But the idea that some form of regular mental activity - doing a crossword, for example—can postpone mental decline is not new. Now researchers have found another - playing certain types of video games could help older people stay sharper for longer.

But how exactly do video games help the brain power of older people?

Cognitive neuroscientists, particularly in the United States, have been researching and conducting experiments with volunteers aged 60 to 85 to answer this question.

The experiments uncovered some remarkable insights including:

  • Sixty-year-olds who played a custom-designed video game for 12 hours over the course of a month, improved their ability to multitask to levels better than those achieved by 20-year-olds playing the game for the first time

  • Playing games on a TV or Wii system that encourage physical activity may also make an older person less likely to fall - even just a few sessions with the Wii led to improved balance, coordination, and strength

  • Swerving around cars while simultaneously picking out road signs in a video game can improve the short-term memory and long-term focus of older adults

  • People aged 80+ began to show neurological patterns of people in their 20s

  • Improved sustained attention of older people in games where they had to remain vigilant and react quickly to a change on the screen

What does this mean for me, my older relatives or the older people I care for?

We aren’t suggesting that people over a certain age should rush out and buy a gaming console. What studies like this demonstrate is the importance of regularly participating in activities that challenge our brains by making us think, make decisions and be in control of various situations. Whether that is through video games, smartphone apps, crosswords, puzzles, board games or sudokus - there should be an activity for everyone to find and enjoy.

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