When you think about an arcade, your mom and dad probably aren’t the first people to come to mind — but that might be a mistake. In Japan, as younger players have turned their attention towards the generation of smartphone games and consoles that they have in their homes, arcade owners have begun to focus on developing an older generation of clientele. And for many seniors, these arcades have proven to have considerable therapeutic value. But what exactly are senior arcades and what can they offer?
Senior Arcades vs. Traditional Arcades
The first thing to understand about senior arcades is the difference in atmosphere that you can expect at one of these establishments. While this will obviously vary from location to location, it’s important to realize that senior arcades aren’t necessarily the kind of environment where you’ll find everything overrun by screaming packs of children. On the contrary, many of these arcades have been refitted specifically to more comfortably host the elderly.
For instance, most Japanese senior arcades have had their prizes swapped out to match up with the new intended player base. Instead of playing the skill-crane to win a stuffed plushy of a character from the latest Disney movie, players might take home anything from blankets to cooking oil. While these more adult-oriented environments are still as family friendly as ever, but there’s no denying for whom they’re intended.
Researchers have long understood that there’s a laundry list of benefits to playing video games. With just a couple hours of regular play, you can see considerable improvements in improved hand-eye coordination, and the distraction of playing a game can be very effective at helping manage chronic pain. But more importantly than that, playing at an arcade can offer protection from one of the most serious risks that seniors face: depression.
Late-life depression affects millions of Americans, and may increase your risk for a variety of serious conditions, including heart disease and stroke. Depression can also cause social withdrawal, disturbances in sleep patterns, unintended weight loss, and fatigue. Facing social isolation, these risks can be even worse. That’s why the social activity of playing games with and around others can be so beneficial to seniors in the battle against depression.
In the absence of arcades providing a way to interact with others and play games, many seniors would otherwise be spending that time isolated and alone. In short, arcades provide them with the opportunity to have fun in a safe atmosphere, often in a highly affordable way, and while offering an invaluable opportunity to socialize, to be stimulated, and to feel independent.
Senior Arcades in the States
Unfortunately, senior arcades haven’t always enjoyed the same warm reception in America that they’ve had in Japan. Most notably, Florida recently passed HB 155, a law on the prohibition of electronic gambling devices that was written to prevent gambling at Internet Cafes. The law made it illegal for arcade games to award prizes worth more than 75 cents, to using payment systems that accept banknotes for certain games, and a few other measures to ensure that legal arcades don’t become casinos. In the time since passing, many arcades have adapted to meet these new requirements and reopened, and many other states are only too happy to let seniors have their fun.
All Things in Moderation
Even before HB 155, senior arcades were a far cry from a night of gambling at Las Vegas, but that doesn’t mean that playing is completely without risk. Anyone who has spent a few hours at an arcade can tell you how quickly the time passes, and seniors who are on a fixed income may need to budget carefully to make sure they don’t end up playing more than they can afford. But with some fiscal responsibility and a little moderation, there’s no denying that seniors and video games are a golden combination.