If you are addicted to playing digital games like Words with Friends, Angry Birds or Candy Crush on your smartphone or tablet, it may not be all bad news for your health. While it is important to limit screen time, especially before bed, and to stay physically active, researchers have found that seniors who participate in online games can help prevent or delay cognitive decline associated with aging.
According to a recent CBC News report, a study of 1,200 seniors by Simon Fraser University, has found that digital games can benefit older adults by stimulating the brain and helping seniors make new friends and stay socially connected. Social isolation can lead to depression among older adults; loneliness can be as bad for your health as smoking or being overweight. And yet according to Statistics Canada, up to 1.4 million elderly Canadians report feeling lonely.
Not all games are created equally but many have hidden benefits. Strategy games will help keep the aging brain sharp but other games can also improve reaction time or allow adults with mobility problems to participate in simulated sports. Many community centers and seniors residences set up a Wii bowling league to help bring older adults together in a shared social activity that everyone can enjoy.
Seniors who don’t have access to a smartphone or tablet, or find the screens too small for older eyes, can also play many free online games using a desktop or laptop computer. Whether it’s a game of Mahjongg, Sudoku or a daily crossword puzzle, there is truly something for every interest and skill. Multiplayer online games like World of Warcraft can also have a positive effect on the social and emotional well-being of older adults, and be an important source of social learning.
Check out the many free games available through the AARP website here.
Perhaps a new tablet loaded with digital games should be on the holiday gift list for an older loved-one in your family?