Many of us who are boomers grew up playing video games, starting with the first pong game as preteens. We then advanced to become pinball wizards and Pac-Man fiends in high school.
After we conquered the galaxy, we moved onto the worlds of Mario and Sonic (maybe even Pokemon?), often joining in with our own kids.
Usually our parents asked us why we were wasting our time sitting on the couch in front of our favorite games instead of going outside in the sunshine.
Today the game industry has made its way onto our mobile devices and into the mainstream — and seniors have come aboard with us. Digital games are affordable and entertaining!
Seniors have found out what we always knew — games are great fun as well as mentally stimulating.
Seniors have started their own crazes playing games. Gaming consoles have found their way into homes, senior centers, and even nursing homes across the country, where seniors are finding the benefits of playtime, while games on smartphones and tablets mean the fun goes wherever the seniors go.
Benefits of Digital Games for Seniors
There are many ways seniors can benefit from the use of digital games on their mobile devices. These are just a few.
- Building and maintaining relationships — and creating memories — with family members of all ages, especially younger generations. Many digital games provide opportunities to connect and play with those at a distance.
- Research links game playing with improved cognitive skills and memory as the brain is challenged, especially with the more complex games (crossword, jigsaw puzzles, Sudoku, memory).
- Increasing opportunities for socialization as they play games with friends, neighbors, and even those at a distance on the web.
- Building familiarity and comfort with the mobile devices and digital technologies that can mean so much more than game playing to seniors, especially those living independently.
In other words, there are many reasons to encourage and help our senior loved ones to play games on their mobile devices.
Tips for Choosing Digital Games with Seniors
As with mobile devices themselves and other technology, the approach we take with games and our senior loved ones is important if we want them to have fun and realize the other benefits games can provide.
- Start with games in the online stores (App Store, Google Play, etc) the senior already enjoys playing solo through traditional means, such as solitaire, mahjong or casino favorites, such as slots or blackjack. This can build familiarity with playing on a touch screen, including the gestures needed to play the game, without the senior having to demonstrate to others.
- Suggest games your senior loved one already plays with others as board games — such as backgammon, cribbage, or even monopoly — or card games — such as hearts, gin rummy, or poker — so they can play (and socialize) with friends and neighbors.
- Demonstrate, if the senior is not already familiar, how to navigate through the app marketplace on their mobile device, find games they might enjoy (or other apps they might find useful), and load the app on their device.
- Verify the apps chosen don’t come with a fee that must be paid later or limited capabilities that may frustrate users just as they start to enjoy the games.
- Ensure, by reading the app descriptions and reviews (both in the app marketplace and online), chosen apps will not collect and use personal data on your senior that you and they are not comfortable being used. Explain the importance of this to your senior loved one and show them how to do the same themselves with apps they may want to try in the future.
- Play the chosen game(s) with them a while so they learn what needs to be done and has the opportunity to ask questions while you are with them. You might just find yourself having fun and creating new memories with your senior loved one!
One of the most important things to keep in mind is that there is no one approach that is best for all seniors. Like you, your senior loved one is a unique individual. Helping them realize the benefits of digital games — and technology in general — means taking the approach that is right for them (and you).