Gaming can help fight isolation and loneliness
By Jennifer Hughes
While it’s true that excessive video gaming can lead to vision problems and social isolation, digital games can also be extremely beneficial. According to research done by researchers at Simon Fraser University (SFU) in British Columbia, video games can help seniors become more social and promote mental stimulation.
The researchers surveyed 1,200 seniors and found that many of those above the age of 60 already play online games such as Mahjong, chess, Scrabble, and solitaire. Though this might seem like a way to pass the time, these games can help improve reflexes, memory, concentration, and the ability to process change.
Video games can offer both mental and physical benefits. For example, video games that combine gameplay with exercise, such as exergames for the Wii or Nintendo Switch, can improve balance and confidence, and have been linked to aiding seniors who have fears of falling.
In Canada, seniors are the fastest-growing group of computer users, so there are many opportunities for video games and technology to help improve their health and wellbeing. “A game that has a bit of strategy in it will bring cognitive benefits; it will help slow down the mental decline of seniors,” David Kaufman, the leader of the SFU research team told CBC’s The Early Edition. “Other games, such as Angry Birds, will help with reaction time and things like that.”
However, the research also showed that only 30% of seniors play video games with others, which means that not many are experiencing the social benefits that games can offer. Playing games with others online, whether family or strangers, can help decrease isolation as well as feelings of loneliness and depression.