Sunday, January 24, 2010

Video games and elders

Research reported on January 22, 2010 suggests that video games might actually be great for seniors by keeping their minds focused and responsive. "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 its Gains Through Gaming Lab. Allaire is part of a team that has received a $1.2 million grant from the National Science foundation to study how video games can increase memory and cognitive skills in the elderly.

As Wii exploded on the scene a couple of years ago, retirement centers and senior day programs took notice, adopting the programs for their residences and participants. With games like Wii bowling, for example, studies show increased heart rate, making the game a natural for incorporating into exercise programs. In 2008 another piece of research conducted at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign showed that cognitive abilities increased as well. Some residential communities have Wii challenges among themselves, drawing family and friends to watch and root for their teams, which adds the social element, also found critical for warding off many of the effects of aging, such as depression and isolation.

I can say for myself, having been introduced to Wii through my grandchildren, that Wii is surely a lot of fun. I find boxing the best for raising my heartrate...and causing a lot of laughter as I nearly knock out the TV each time! I love having my own "profile," too, and a set of improvement scores to brag about each time I play.

Do you play video games? Try playing one with an aging loved one and see what happens. What types of challenges? What joys? Please share your comments.

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