You might think that video games are the hobby of the younger generations. However, as we’ve seen throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, we can all make use of virtual entertainment. In fact, more elderly people are turning to video games than ever before. Today's article is all about elderly gaming.
A 2019 survey showed that as many as 42% of Brits aged 55-64 played video games regularly. What’s more, more than 1 in 4 people over 65 said they had played a video game in the last five years.
From mobile phone apps to dedicated games consoles, we’ll be taking an in-depth look at computer games for older people. We’ll discuss the reasons why gaming is a good hobby for the elderly and give you some recommendations for games and consoles to get started with.
Elderly Gaming - Statistics and Benefits
The number of gamers over the age of 55 is on the rise and has been for the last few years. Back in 2016, it was reported that one in four people over 55 had a games console in their home.
The creators of Bejewelled, an incredibly popular mobile game, found that 47% of their estimated 150 million players worldwide were over the age of 50.
So, elderly gaming is more popular than you might have thought. But besides their entertainment value, video games might have health benefits to offer as well.
Studies suggest that 3D computer games can help prevent memory loss. Volunteers between the ages of 55 and 75 spent half an hour playing Super Mario 64 every day for six months. At the end of the study, the volunteers had better short-term memory and more grey matter.
The hippocampus is an area of the brain that is crucial to memory. It naturally shrinks as we get older, putting us at risk of conditions like dementia and depression. Research suggests that playing problem-solving games like Super Mario 64 can help to fight this shrinkage.
Donald Smith - Silver Gamer
Of course, one of the main reasons that anyone plays games is for fun! With the rise of online gaming, you can play with your friends and family, or try your skill against strangers from all over the globe. Therefore, gaming can be a great way to stave off loneliness. Gaming communities are popping up online all the time - there are plenty of forums and groups to join if you're looking for new people to talk to and play against.
Donald Smith, 79, is a regular gamer and has been playing for many years now. He said:
"I enjoy playing my computer games, they are the best form of entertainment especially as there's a lot of rubbish on TV nowadays. I have played computer games like Call of Duty, but I now enjoy playing a Facebook game called Lexulous, which is basically Scrabble. With Lexulous, you can play with friends, select random opponents or let them select you. They can be from anywhere in the world, & I regularly play against opponents in the USA, although the time difference can be challenging."
Mr Smith went on to say that he feels like the games help to "stimulate the brain." He thinks they are great for people of all ages - not just teenagers.
Elderly Gaming Picks - Mobile Games
If you are new to the gaming world, then mobile games are definitely the most affordable way to start. There are thousands of free games you can download from your app store.
Most of us are familiar with the classic game Scrabble. Nowadays, there are plenty of innovative word games you can download for free on your smartphone .
Lexulous and Words With Friends are great examples. You can download these Scrabble-style games from the Apple Store, Android Store and through Facebook. Or, of course, for the more traditional amongst us, you could just pick up a physical copy of Scrabble and challenge your friends and family!
Wordscapes is another mobile game. If you combined a crossword puzzle with a wordsearch, you might get something like Wordscapes. It's a great mental workout trying to find as many words as you can from the letters provided.
For the visual thinkers among us, puzzle games are a great way to keep your mind active.
Candy Crush is one of the most popular mobile games ever. The aim is simple - clear the board of candy by lining up three or more matching pieces in a row. Don't let its simplicity fool you though. As you progress to higher levels, this game can be fiendishly tricky. Candy Crush is a great (free!) way to stretch your mental muscles.
Two Dots is simple to pick up and impossible to put down. You use your finger to draw a horizontal or vertical line between dots of the same colour. For anyone looking to put their problem-solving skills to the test, there are thousands of levels to complete.
Elderly Gaming Picks - Consoles for Older Gamers
Many of us already have a games console in the house. If you haven't got one already, don't be put off by the price tag. You can often pick up pre-owned or refurbished models for a fraction of the retail price. Here are some popular consoles to consider:
- PlayStation 4
- Xbox One
- Nintendo Switch
- Nintendo Wii
Elderly Gaming Picks - Console Games
Wii Sports (for Nintendo Wii)
This is one of the older games on this list, released all the way back in 2006. Although it might seem simple by today's standards, its success is undeniable. As of March 2020, an estimated 82.9 million copies have been sold worldwide. What's more games for older consoles like the Wii will generally be quite cheap. Players select one of five sports: tennis, golf, bowling, boxing, or baseball. They then use the Wii remote to mimic playing the sport in real life, by throwing a punch in a boxing match or swinging a golf club. This game has the added benefit of getting you up on your feet and improving co-ordination and balance. Wii Sports is a great game to play with your family.
Call of Duty
The Call of Duty series is another one of our picks. This game series has broken records and has become an industry favourite on both games consoles and computers. There are so many Call of Duty games to choose from. However, they all have the same challenging missions and playing styles. This is an example of a first-person shooter game, where players experience the game through the eyes of the main character. To succeed, you will need quick reflexes and a sharp strategic mind.
Super Mario Bros. Wii
Our final recommendation is a classic example of a platform game. You play as the iconic Mario, travelling through colourful worlds to rescue Princess Peach. This game has great options for beginners: if you get stuck on a certain level, you can watch a computer-controlled character complete it before having another go yourself. This is exactly the sort of game that can increase grey matter in the hippocampus. What's more, some research suggests that video games like this one can even delay the onset of conditions like dementia.
Elderly Gaming and the Importance of Hobbies
Finally, whether you're a seasoned gamer or a total newbie, we know that the world of video games can seem daunting at first. However, we would urge everybody to give gaming a chance. The rise of the so-called 'silver gamer' shows no signs of stopping.
On the other hand, if gaming just isn't for you, why not check out our guide to 15 hobbies for older people?
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Editor's Note: This article was last updated on 11 June 2020 to reflect current information.
Originally published 15 May 2018.