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Staying Sharp: How Playing Video Games Helps Seniors

Laying waste to legions of orcs and goblins probably isn’t what comes to mind when you imagine therapy or exercise, but the truth is, video games have proven to be one of the most effective ways for seniors to make the most of their golden years. Over the past two decades, researchers have come to discover a wealth of benefits to playing video games. Below you can learn about some of the more noteworthy physical and psychological benefits available to seniors, as well as just how much they may stand to gain from playing what was once widely considered to be little more than a way to waste time.

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Physical Benefits

Scientists have long understood that playing video games can improve hand-eye coordination, but recent studies have found that that may be only the tip of the iceberg. For those who suffer from arthritis, video games have been proven to be effective at increasing hand mobility. For those who suffer from pain, the distraction of playing and the associated placebo effect has proven an invaluable means of pain relief. In some cases, even vision can be improved as playing may help to focus the muscles in the eye.

These days, video games can even facilitate staying fit. Many seniors may find that Wii gaming provides a perfect light yet effective means of exercising. This is largely thanks to the Wii controller, which uses arm and body motions to control games, and provides invaluable cardiovascular exercise in the process. Many physical therapists even use the Wii as a part of regular therapy, helping seniors enjoy their road to recovery.

Video Games as Therapy

The passage of time can make seniors vulnerable to a variety of age-related illnesses, many of them psychosomatic. For example, seniors are one of the mostat-risk groups for depression. Although psychologically significant on its own, depression can also bring on a variety of physical ailments that can make health worse, including fatigue, social withdrawal, weight loss, sleep disturbances, increased drug use, and even suicidal thoughts. Video games can provide an opportunity to escape these risks, and even provide many other proven health benefits along the way.

For serious ailments like aphasia, video games have proven an invaluable supplement to traditional speech therapy. Memory and puzzle games can provide effective aphasia treatment activities, exercised with great convenience and enjoyed as entertainment. And thanks to the wide variety of games for seniors available, it’s not difficult to find a game that can serve as the perfect source of cognitive activities for older adults.

With the use of online gaming, video games can be an excellent means of providing desperately needed social interaction. Whether playing with old friends or making new ones, online gaming can give seniors the opportunity to socialize from anywhere. And friendship isn’t the only benefit — onerecent study from UC San Francisco found that playing video games can even reduce or reverse the negative effects of aging on the brain. As one of the most engaging types of cognitive activities for older adults, researchers have found that video games can help the aging brain improve multitasking, attention, reflexes, and even memory.

Affordable Care

Finally, it’s worth pointing out that gaming can be surprisingly cheap. With refurbished computers, Internet downloading, and continually decreasing console prices, you can find literally thousands of hours of entertainment or therapy in video games for as little as $200. For those with no more than the price of an Internet connection, there are thousands of free memory games available online. I’m sure you’ll agree that’s a small price to pay for better moods, better health, and an overall increased sense of well-being for your loved one.

Do you play video games with your loved ones? Which ones seem to be your loved one’s favorite? Share with us in the comments below.