Video Games for Seniors: An Innovative Technological Tool

Although many people think of video games as mindless kid activities, current research confirms that they may actually enhance one’s ability to think, reason and respond quickly.

According to the National Science Foundation, many seniors, who have experienced declines in their perceptual, motor and cognitive skills, increase hand-eye coordination, memory and muscle control by playing certain video games. New studies are attempting to determine if video games might help forestall normal types of age-related cognitive and physical declines.

Most video games are entertainment tools that demand attention and reflex-finger responses. Nintendo Wii’s sports games take each player’s involvement one step further. Instead of just pushing the proper controller keys Wii players hold motion-sensitive controllers in one or both hands. The players must use different arm positions to swing bats, throw balls or punch cartoon opponents who appear to be focusing right on them from inside the TV screen.

With the Wii baseball game, players use a single controller instead of a bat, and have the option of holding it with one or both hands. Responding to a pitch appearing on screen, the player swings the controller as one would a bat.  Since there is no actual ball contact, the player’s reacting arm and body movements define what occurs on the screen. The screen will reflect a hit or an out, a fly ball, or a very enthusiastic crowd that is reacting to the player’s home run.

Wii bowlers first move their hand-held controllers back, and then swing their arms forward as if they are releasing bowling balls. Hand-eye coordination skills affect a player’s game score. Proper arm motion and speed are reflected by the number of on-screen cartoon pins that topple.

The American Heart Association confirmed that the Wii sports boxing game provides adults with excellent moderate-intensity exercise. Players punch their on-screen opponent by clutching controllers with both hands and quickly aiming repeated punches. To avoid being portrayed on screen as knocked-out cartoon characters, players protect themselves with timely side-to-side shoulder motions that block punches from their on-screen opponents.

Many senior centers are promoting video-game team competitions. The City of Los Angeles Department of Aging and SCAN Health Plan have joined to provide free Nintendo Wii consoles to 16 Multipurpose Senior Centers.

Besides providing exercise and cognitive stimulation, video games offer many seniors a welcome introduction to modern technology. Playing appropriate video games may enhance seniors hand-eye coordination and memory. So . . . wanna play?