Video Games Help Senior’s Emotional Well-Being, Study Finds

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

Researchers writing in Computers in Human Behavior suggest older adults with low levels of emotional well-being should try looking to a little Nintendo for help.

According to North Carolina State University researchers, older adults who played video games during their study reported having higher levels of emotional well-being.

The team surveyed 140 adults aged 63 and older about how often they played video games, if at all. Sixty-one percent of the study participants said they played video games on occasions, while 35 percent admitted to playing games at least once per week.

They found participants who played video games, including those who only said they do so occasionally, had higher levels of well-being, while those who didn’t reported more negative emotions and a tendency toward having depression.

“The research published here suggests that there is a link between gaming and better well-being and emotional functioning,” says Dr. Jason Allaire, lead author of a paper. “We are currently planning studies to determine whether playing digital games actually improves mental health in older adults. ”

Allaire told redOrbit participants in the study were asked what games they had played in the last year, and most reported playing puzzle games on the PC or games on the Wii.

Allaire advised that caregivers ensure they have whomever they are taking care of in their life engage in some kind of fun, mental activity.

“I would say whatever you do, engage in activities that exercise your mind,” he told redOrbit. “Video games offer an excellent opportunity to exercise a lot of different mental abilities in a fun and challenging environment. Also make sure you play a game that you enjoy.  If you do not have fun doing it, you probably wont stick with it very long.”

Another study reported in 2010 in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry backs up Allaire and his colleagues´ research. This study concluded seniors who regularly use entertaining video games that combine game play with exercise had improved symptoms of subsyndromal depression (SSD).

“Depression predicts nonadherence to physical activity, and that is a key barrier to most exercise programs,” said Dilip V. Jeste, MD, Distinguished Professor of psychiatry and neurosciences at UCSD School of Medicine. “Older adults with depression may be at particular risk for diminished enjoyment of physical activity, and therefore, more likely to stop exercise programs prematurely.”

A new robot being developed by a University of Salford researcher will not only help the elderly engage in a few games, but also can act as a caregiver. The P37 S65 robot tells jokes, plays games, helps connect elderly with video chat to family members, and is able to remind the senior to take their medications and to exercise. Antonio Espingardeiro was able to see in a study that his robot helped to improve quality of life for the elderly it took care of.

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