When discussions turn to Christmas gifts for seniors, Wiis, Xboxes, and other video gaming systems typically don't make the list. However, the truth is that people of all ages and abilities not only enjoy video games, but can also derive many benefits from using them. Let's count down five reasons to consider gifting your aging loved one with a Wii or other home video game console this year.
1. They Can Improve Cognitive Function
While conversations often revolve around the dangers of excess of video game use by children, the fact is that they can be a valuable tool in helping boost cognition, memory, and attention skills in seniors. In fact, one study published in Nature revealed that seniors who played a special video game for 12 hours over a month-long period gained long-term boosts to brain activity and engagement.
2. They Can Strengthen the Body
Video games have a surprising impact on muscular and skeletal health, according to a study from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Researchers determined that playing computer games helped seniors improve both gait and balance. Not only are these abilities linked with enhanced mobility, but they also decrease the risk of debilitating trips and falls.
3. They Can Improve Vision
But that's not the sole body benefit brought on by video game play. Think there's no worth in games like Call of Duty or Halo? Think again. One Seeing and Perceiving study determined that seniors with cataracts who played these games showed signs of vision improvement, including being able to recognize faces and read small print more easily. Why? Because first-person shooter games offer the equivalent of eye training while simultaneously triggering increased dopamine and adrenaline -- both of which sharpen the brain and its abilities.
4. And Better Heart Health, Too!
One study highlighted in an ABC News article demonstrated that seniors who participated in Wii bowling enjoyed a heart rate boost of as much as 40 percent! With cardiovascular fitness an important part of senior health, seniors not only enjoy the simulating bowling experience of Wii, but also build their heart health in the process.
5. They Can Lift Spirits
Multiple studies have linked video gaming in seniors with higher spirits and fewer feelings of loneliness and isolation. Consider a 2010 study from UC San Diego revealing that the unique combination of game play and physical activity fostered by video "exergames" such as Nintendo Wii Sports led to a 50 percent or greater reduction in depressive symptoms, as well as improved cognitive stimulation and a higher mental health quality of life.
No room for a console game? Handheld devices also offer benefits!
While these five factors offer incentive enough for caregivers to add a Wii or other gaming system to their aging loved one's Christmas list this year, we've got one last reason: it's fun! Ultimately, video games can be stimulating for the body, mind and soul while simultaneously offering seniors a chance to connect with younger loved ones. And that's a gift that keeps on giving!
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