Game On: 4 Benefits of Video Games For Senior Health

Julia Little  |  October 30, 2014

It may be time to borrow that controller from your grandson. Studies have proven that video games may be beneficial to senior health. Though mom's have criticized these games for years, you may actually benefit from them. Consider these reasons why video games are beneficial to your health.

1. Games may improve balance
Researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago discovered seniors who played brain-training computer games had better balance than seniors who didn't. The findings were published in the Journal of Gerontology. It may not be a conscious effort, but walking and other motor skills require a little cognition, which suggests that higher rates of falls and other balance-related accidents could correlate to poor brain health. Playing games helped maintain older adults' walking speed and overall balance.

In a random study, the researchers divided 51 men and women with an average age of 83 into two groups. One group used the brain-training game InSight for 10 weeks while the other group did nothing. The participants in the first group played three games, all of which were designed to help improve memory, spatial navigation and decision-making skills. At the study's conclusion, the video game players were able to get up from a seated position and walk faster than participants who didn't partake in the activities. The groups had similar health at the beginning of the study.

2. They lessen stress and depression levels
A 2011 study from East Carolina University discovered that video games may help lessen depression and anxiety in people who deal with those mental health issues. The video games helped boost participants' moods and had both short- and long-term positive effects for them. The researchers also found the games served as an outlet for stress and helped participants relax. 

3. Games improve vision
Despite those naysayers that claim sitting too close to the television may hurt your eyes, video games could improve vision. A researcher from McMaster University in Ontario discovered in 2012 that older adults with cataracts may improve their vision by playing individual shooter games such as Halo or Call of Duty. These games are fast-paced, cause rapid eye movement and require lots of attention, which can help people see things more clearly. These quick games can also spike adrenaline and dopamine rates, causing the brain to become more plastic.

4. They increase exercise levels
Certain games, especially those that require physical interaction like Wii games, can help get people moving, U.S. News and World Report stated. There are several Wii games that can get seniors off the couch, including bowling and boxing. These games can help improve cardiovascular health by increasing blood flow and help older adults burn a few calories too. It can also encourage seniors to socialize, as they can invite friends from around the retirement community to get together for game tournaments or casual play.

These are just a few reasons why video games could be great for your health. There are plenty of video games out there, so test out a few different kinds to see which ones you like. Regardless of what you choose, you'll be improving your health and having fun in no time. 

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