Can Computer Games Improve Mental Abilities in Seniors?

Computers in Human Behavior found that 60% of the adults in their study played electronic or digital games had a high sense of well-being and social functioning compared to non-gamer seniors who were more likely to experience depression. The National Senior Wii Bowling League is hugely popular. In 2015 it had over 1,500 bowlers from 310 teams, representing a total of 100 communities across 26 states. Groups are organized into four-person teams that are divided into divisions. The groups play a 7 week schedule followed by a 3-4 week conference playoff. The league is represented by many 55+ communities and senior living groups. Video games like Wii Bowling are helping adults over 60 find recreational activities that are consistent with their state in life, health and mobility. Not to mention, that they allow seniors an enriching social life.

UC San Francisco designed a special 3-D video game for boomers which presumably reverses some of the effects of aging on the brain. The game, called NeuroRacer, is designed to improve cognitive control. It requires participants to perform a perceptual discrimination task and visuo-motor adaptation task both individually and simultaneously (multitasking).

Researchers at North Carolina University also tout the benefits of video games for seniors. Their research found seniors improved their cognitive focus while playing the video game “World of Warcraft” for two hours a day, over a two-week period. The gaming study involved over 30 older adults, aged 60-77, to play the video game WoW for roughly two hours a day over a two-week period. At the end of the two weeks, the people who had initially scored low showed significant improvement in both spatial ability and cognitive focus, after their exposure to the video game.

“There’s a growing body of evidence that suggests playing video games actually can improve older adults’ reflexes, processing speed, memory, attention skills and spatial abilities,” said Jason Allaire, an associate professor of psychology at North Carolina State University and co-director of Gains Through Gaming Lab.

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