Best ways video games are good for old people

Survey has found that off-the-shelf video games have the potential to help seniors age more gracefully, keeping their minds sharp and responsive through game play. There is a growing body of evidence that suggests playing video games actually can improve older adults’ reflexes, processing speed, memory, attention skills and spatial abilities. With the advent of the Nintendo Wii, there’s even the potential that video games could provide seniors with an outlet for physical exercise. The Wii uses special controllers that require arm and body movements, and a number of games have been developed for the system specifically to provide an exercise program.

Research found that a Wii bowling game boosted the heart rate of players at a senior center in Pensacola, Fla., by about 40%. The game required that the players, who were in their 60s, 70s and 80s, hold the controller like a bowling ball and swing it to hit the pins in a virtual bowling alley. The Wii is a perfect vehicle because it is so easy. It is in a lot of senior centers already and older adults already tend to use it.

Studies also measured the cognitive abilities of the players, none of whom had played any video games for at least two years. They then had half the group play Rise of Nations for nearly 24 hours total over an eight-week period. Follow-up tests found that the seniors who played the strategy video game improved their performance on tests of memory, reasoning and cognition. There were particular improvements, in what is called executive control processes with abilities such as planning, scheduling, dealing with ambiguity and multi-tasking. The survey also involved World of Warcraft, an online role-playing game and the plan is to assess three aspects of video game-playing that are thought to drive cognitive improvements in older people.

Though the survey efforts show the possibilities of using video games to help aging adults. However, it noted that no studies have shown a transfer of video-game skills to real-world activities. Seniors should consider video games one of a number of things they can do to keep themselves sharp. The video games would be the only or even the best way to exercise those cognitive functions and noting that physical exercise, social interaction and diet are already proven ways to promote mental abilities as you get older.

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