A study published in a 2010 study in the New England Journal of Medicine focused on how engaging in the right leisure activities can keep brain cells stimulated and cognitive skills intact as we age. Researchers call this “productive aging” and it has been linked to lower rates of dementia. Leisure pastimes found to have brain health benefits include learning a new language, video games, dancing, and playing musical instruments. Staying socially engaged is another factor considered to be important for senior health.
According to PopCap Games, the number of seniors over the age of 50 who were regular players of video games climbed 17% between 1999 and 2008. In addition, 43% of older boomers regularly use social networking sites. Even the silent generation (ages 65 – 73) have taken to socializing online. 34% are on social sites like Facebook.
Benefits of Electronic Games and Social Media for Older Adults
There are a variety of mental and physical health benefits that come from mastering video games and connecting on social channels. They range from improved hand-eye coordination to sharper cognitive skills and lower incidence of depression.
Nintendo Wii, for example, offers seniors an opportunity to join friends, family and grandchildren in friendly competitions while engaging in low impact physical activities. “Video Game Training Enhances Cognitive Control in Older Adults,” a 2013 study published in Nature, highlights how adults as old as 80 who played video games improved their short-term memory and had better long-term focus that went beyond just the time they were actively gaming.
Other senior health benefits include:
- Wii Fit games provide safe ways to improve core strength, range of motion skills and balance. Those improvements can help with fall prevention.
- Other games such as Guitar Hero can increase flexibility in hands and fingers which can decrease the pain caused by arthritis.
4 Easy Ways to Engage Seniors in Electronic Games and Social Media
What are some easy ways older adults can dive in to social media or electronic games if they haven’t tried them before? Here a few ideas to get started:
- Buy a Nintendo Wii for your senior loved one and help them get set up and started. (Hint: The grandkids might be the best ones to help with this!)
- Take advantage of integrated, easy-to-use systems like GrandCare or Claris Companion. With the touch of the screen, seniors can email, play games, video chat with loves ones, look at family photos and much more.
- Help your aging loved one set up Facebook on their computer or tablet. Teach them how to find friends from high school or college, how to post an update and comment on others’ posts. Be sure to set up and review privacy features with them.
- The AARP Technology Education Center can be a great place for online learning for older adults. It has video resources and an online materials that teach seniors a variety of tech skills ranging from how to send text messages to how to safely shop online.
Bottom line is that finding new ways to challenge the brain and working to stay connected with friends and family can all help keep older adults mentally and physically fit later in life.
If you would like to discuss how to get your loved one more socially engaged, please contact Assisted Living Services at (203)634-8668.