Social Media and Electronic Games for Older Adults
In the third segment of our Staying Social Later In Life series we explore the growing trend of older adults using electronic games and social media. Aging experts have been promoting the importance of playing games and taking on new challenges as a form of brain aerobics for many years now. Both help to keep you more mentally and physically fit, as well as provide you with the opportunity to stay connected with grandchildren and the younger generation.
Scientists believe these activities are good ones to participate in because they require you to use and develop different areas of the brain than you might otherwise be using in the course of the day. “Game Changer,” a study published last fall in Nature, showed that adults as old as 80 who played video games had improved short-term memory and better long-term focus that wasn’t limited to just the time they spent gaming.
Seniors, Social Media and Gaming by the Numbers
Seniors are joining social media platforms, especially Facebook, and video gaming in ever increasing numbers. A customer survey conducted by PopCap Games found that 71% of its players are older than 40; 47% are older than 50; and 76% are women. In 1999, only 9% of seniors over the age of 50 played video games. By 2008 that number had climbed to 26% of older adults. That represents a growth of 17% in less than a decade. 43% of older boomers (ages 56 – 64) and 34% of the silent generation (ages 65 – 73) use social networking sites. They represent two of the fastest growing segments on sites like Facebook.
Benefits of Electronic Games and Social Media for Older Adults
There are a variety of mental and physical health benefits that come from mastering video games and connecting on social channels. They range from improved hand-eye coordination to decreased rates of depression and sharpened cognitive skills. Nintendo Wii, for example, offers seniors an opportunity to join friends, family and grandchildren in friendly competitions. Residents at The Bristal North Hills enjoyed learning how to play Wii Bowling with help from the boys of St. Mary’s Church.
Other health benefits include:
• Games like Wii Fit can help to improve balance and prevent falls while Wii Sports can help boost heart rate and burn calories.
• Others like Guitar Hero can help improve dexterity and decrease the pain caused by arthritis.
• Wii tennis, golf and baseball all improve range of motion skills.
• Wii Sports Resort has great games for groups to enjoy. Teams can go canoeing, skydiving, and even fly their own plane.
6 Ways to Engage Seniors in Electronic Games and Social Media
What are some ways you can ease in to social media or electronic games if you haven’t tried any before?
1. Buy a Nintendo Wii and have a grandchild help you get it set up and connected.
2. Invite your grandchildren over to teach you how to play a few of their favorite video games. Good ones to consider purchasing are Wii Fit Plus and Wii Degree.
3. Arrange a family Wii Challenge with one of the popular and easy-to-play games like bowling, golf or tennis. You could invite your children and grandchildren and set up brackets to make the competition last longer.
4. Enlist an adult child or grandchild to help you set up Facebook on your laptop or iPad. They can quickly teach you the basics about finding friends, posting an update and commenting on others’ posts. Be sure to ask them to review privacy features with you.
5. Download free game apps for your tablet device. They allow you to play games such as Solitaire or Scrabble online. Bejeweled is another older adult friendly puzzle game app that can help to boost brain power.
6. Take advantage of the AARP Technology Education Center also known as TEK. It has video resources and an online library of articles that are designed teach seniors a variety of tech skills ranging from how to use a tablet device to setting up a family group on Facebook.
We hope we’ve given you a few solid ideas for getting started with video games and social media. Be sure to read our final segment of Staying Social Later In Life. We’ll be wrapping the series up with ideas on how to build a social life as a senior.