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Gamer Grandma: Study Shows Surprising Benefits for Seniors Who Play Video Games

zeth@greatnessdigital.com January 19, 2016

Contrary to popular perception, video games aren’t just for kids. There is nothing unusual about seniors or older adults playing video games for a bit of fun and entertainment and to keep boredom away. And if new research that has emerged from North Carolina State University is to be believed, seniors who play video games have been found to have a higher level of emotional well-being.

A paper was published based on this important study, titled “Successful aging through digital games: Socioemotional differences between older adult gamers and non-gamers,” co-authored by North Carolina State Ph.D. students Amanda Trujillo, Laura Whitlock, and Landon LaPorte; Dr. Anne McLaughlin, who is an assistant professor of psychology at North Carolina State; and Dr. Maribeth Gandy of the Georgia Institute of Technology. The study was supported by the National Science Foundation.

Essentially, the research done by the academics at North Carolina State University aimed to examine the difference in the psychological functioning of older adults who play video games in comparison with the psychological functioning of other older adults who don’t. In particular, the researchers wanted to examine their general sense of well-being, level of social activity, and if they were depressed or not.

There were 140 participants in the study, all independently living older adults with an average age of 77.47 years. Researchers asked the 140 participants if they played video games at all, and if so, how often they played.

Based on their answers, the participants were divided into three groups depending on their familiarity with video games – regular gamers, occasional gamers, and non-gamers. Sixty percent of the participants in the study were either regular or occasional gamers, including 35% who played at least once per week.

The participants were then put through a series of psychological tests to assess their emotional and social well-being. The researchers were surprised to find major differences among the three groups on parameters such as general well-being, social functioning, negative affect, and depression.

They found that regular and occasional gamers generally performed better than average on almost all tests, compared to non-gaming older adults. This suggests that playing video games does help seniors with their social and emotional well-being and is in fact a positive activity that allows them to age gracefully.

Those who did not play video games reported having more negative emotions and a higher level of depression. As Dr. Jason Allaire, an associate professor of psychology at North Carolina State University and one of the lead authors of the paper describing the study explains, “The research published here suggests that there is a link between gaming and better well-being and emotional functioning. We are currently planning studies to determine whether playing digital games actually improves mental health in older adults.”

At Right Fit Senior Living Solutions, we found ourselves agreeing with the findings, as they pretty much match our own observations. We have found that nothing makes seniors happier than an hour or two of gaming.

Right Fit Senior Living Solutions is a senior placement company that serves the Beaverton and Portland area. We help you find the right senior living solution to meet your needs, which could be assisted living, memory care, in-home care, or anything in between. Call us at 503-567-7268 or email Liz@RightFitSenior.com to know more.

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