It turns out, grandmas should be better at games, says research

Here at Variable, we strive to make gaming enjoyable for everyone, and when we mean everyone, we really mean everyone—even your grandparents.

You read that right. Your lolos and lolas can get in on the fun when it comes to gaming. In fact, recent studies have shown that some of them are already into gaming. A 2016 study by AARP and the Entertainment Software Association revealed that nearly 40% of adults over age 50 are gamers, with most using laptops and computers to play video games. The study also highlighted that around six in 10 gamers said they play games online.

(If you’re still not convinced, a personal favorite on Twitch is GrndPaGaming. At the time of writing, he’s currently doing a playthrough of the Resident Evil: Revelations. Over on Facebook, Tactical Gramma has amazing content, not to mention insane sniping skills in Warzone.)

Not a relic of a bygone era just yet

Getting your old folks into the gaming habit isn’t just as simple as handing them a joystick and popping whatever game you have, in hopes they will enjoy it too. For one, what they’d like in a game may be vastly different from what you want. A preliminary report on elderly gaming habits by researchers from Chile noted that the elderly doesn’t just play games for the act itself; they also use these games to connect and socialize with people, challenge their cognitive skills and even make sense of the day. (Read: Study shows that video games improve literacy)

If you ask me, the current situation is more than enough to at least make them try to play video games. It’s a way to connect with people and work on sharpening their skills—while being safely tucked away in the comfort of their homes. It can also help them deal with loneliness and social isolation brought about by strict physical distancing. To note, both are risk factors for chronic diseases like cognitive decline, depression and heart disease.

Aside from helping them cope with the times, playing video games can promote both physical and mental health. Exergaming, for instance, was shown to improve motor functions in the elderly, as well as reduce their risk of falling. In addition, video games can help with strength, mobility and balance, according to studies.

Of course, it goes without saying that the elderly can benefit a lot from video games, especially when it comes to their mental health. For one, scientists have found an association between gaming and better well-being and emotional health. This effect isn’t just true for regular gamers, the study also found that older adults who just played once a week also reported better social functioning, a more positive mood and higher levels of well-being. Another study, this time by mobile games developer Lockwood Publishing, also noted that elderly gamers believe that games help with cognitive skills like attention to detail, problem-solving, hand-eye coordination and strategic planning.

So, what’s keeping them?

At this point, we can only speculate. To note, many of the studies that look at relationships between gaming and the elderly were done abroad—and even those were limited in scope. Fortunately, recent research on the subject matter is promising, with experts exploring the benefits of video games in cognition and elderly care.

Given the breadth of titles available to play, it shouldn’t be that hard to get a game for your old folks to enjoy, right?

To quote a 2015 report in the International Journal of Information Technology: “It is a challenge to motivate and engage [the] elderly in game play.” It’s par for the course, really: In as much as game developers have titles that cater to different audiences, older gamers should have titles that cater to what they need, in terms of content and design. If these are met, then who’s to say that video games are just for the young’uns?

That said, here’s to us teaching our grandmas how to use Animal Crossing to see their amigas.

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Ralph Gurango

explainer | newsman | jrpg adventurer

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