Saturday, April 20, 2013

Why Retirees Playing Video Games became Happier?



Video Games are not only for Kids

Retirees have long enjoyed playing golf, tennis, and bowling. But increasingly they are playing these sports and others games digitally. Some 13 million retirees now play video games, according to the market research firm Packaged Facts. And women are equally as likely as men to take up the hobby. “Among the senior population, video games are being used to boost brain power and encourage physical activity,” says Tatjana Meerman, publisher of Packaged Facts.

Nintendo’s Wii has the most popularity among retirees. Andrew Carle, director of the Assisted Living/Senior Housing Administration program at George Mason University, estimates that between 10 and 20 percent of retirement and assisted living communities currently have a Wii. “These games fall under a new industry I call Nana technology, as in technology for your Nana,” says Carle, who was a spokesperson for Nintendo during the release of Brain Age2, a game heavily marketed to graying gamers worried about losing their mental sharpness. “I've defined this as any microchip based technology designed, intended, or that can otherwise be used to improve quality of life for older adults."

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Happy Gamers

One of the latest research showed the surprising fact, which cannot be ignored. The elderly who play video games on a regular basis generally feel they are in a happier, more positive state, in comparison with those who do not enjoy this kind of entertainment.

How many of the grandpas and grandmas were pointing out to their grandchildren that playing games is not good for them, for their brain and for their eyes. So, may be they were wrong!

Researchers at North Carolina State University asked 140 people aged 63 and older how often they played video games, if at all. Participants who took part in recent tests revealed that they generally felt they were in a happier, more positive state when playing video games. The research published here suggests that there a link between gaming and better well-being and emotional functioning

The study participants then took a battery of tests to assess their emotional and social well-being. Over half of study participants played video games at least occasionally, with 35 per cent of participants saying they played at least once per week.

The results definitely link the well-being scores with level if participation in video gaming activities. The study found that participants, who played video games, including those who only played occasionally, reported higher levels of well-being. Those who did not play video games reported more negative emotions and a tendency toward higher levels of depression.

"The research published here suggests that there a link between gaming and better well-being and emotional functioning," says Dr. Jason Allaire, lead author of a paper describing the study and an associate professor of psychology at NC State.

Another study conducted at the Sam and Rose Stein Institute for Research on Aging at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine showed that the “use of ‘exergames’ (on Wii platforms) significantly improved mood and mental health-related quality of life in adults with subsyndromal depression”.


Researchers studied 19 people with depression, ranging from 63 to 94 years of age. The participants played an exergame three times per week for 35 minutes. Dilip V. Jeste, the study’s author and director of the Stein Institute said: “The study suggests encouraging results from the use of exergames. More than one-third of the participants had a 50 percent or greater reduction of depressive symptoms. Many had a significant improvement in their mental health-related quality of life”.

These findings are particularly interesting in light of the nation’s aging population and past research showing baby boomers are more depressed than other age groups.

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Pain Relief

Video games don't just provide relief from emotional pain. They can also help those who are suffering from physical pain. Psychologists at the University of Washington developed a game that helps hospital patients suffering from immense physical pain by using an age-old mental trick: distraction. The virtual reality game "Snow World" put patients in an arctic wonderland in which they throw an endless arsenal of snowballs at a series of targets, such as penguins and snowmen. Military hospitals found the experience helped soldiers recovering from their battlefield wounds. The soldiers who played "Snow World" required less pain medicine during their recuperation. 

Improve your Vision

Mom may have warned you that sitting in front of the TV wasn't good for your eyes. But one developmental psychologist found it could actually be beneficial to your vision. Dr. Daphen Maurer of the Visual Development Lab of Ontario's McMaster University made a surprising discovery: People suffering from cataracts can improve their vision by playing first-person shooter games like Medal of Honor and Call of Duty. She believes these games are so fast-paced that they require an extreme amount of attention, training the visually impaired to view things more sharply. They can also produce higher levels of dopamine and adrenaline that "potentially may make the brain more plastic," she said. 

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Prevent Falls

Researchers at The University of Aberdeen, Scotland and the UK’s National Health Service conducted a four-month study that tracked changes in people over the age of 70 when regularly using Wii Fit and found that it could improve balance as well as help seniors avoid falls. Wii Fit games feature “balance boards that record movements and gives feedback on performance”. Activities include “yoga poses, push-ups, strength, balance and aerobic exercises”.

Dr. Alison Stewart planned the study and told CNN.com: “There exists a medical device that improves balance, but it is expensive, and I could not get the funding. That’s when I looked up the Wii and discovered it is very similar to the other equipment, but less expensive. What is great about the Wii is it also has an entertainment value. The fact that it is enjoyable also makes the compliance rate higher”.

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Provide Exercise

The American College of Sports Medicine revealed a study that showed, “Nintendo’s Wii Bowling significantly increased heart rate in older adult participants, as well as boosted mood and helped them feel refreshed and energized”.

“Older adults often have a difficult time starting a fitness routine later in life,” study co-author Lucas Willoughby told the International Council on Active Aging (ICAA). “Active game-playing might help them see that exercise isn’t about just hitting the treadmill. It can be fun and socially enjoyable, too”.

The American College of Sports Medicine also conducted a study with 24 participants ranging from 66 to 78 years of age and found that playing Wii Bowling for 30 minutes burns 20-176 calories, Wii Baseball burns 22 to 144 calories, and Wii Tennis burns 17-72 calories.

Improve Mental Health

A University of Florida study indicates that video games can “help senior citizens stay mentally alert.” According to lead researcher Patricia Belchior, seniors improved mental sharpness and hand-eye coordination when playing video games. “There are some characteristics of the game that promote visual learning,” she admitted.


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