Elderly care includes stimulating mental capabilities among senior citizens. Some studies highlighted that video games could enhance brain performance, improving memory and social engagement.
Brain training for the elderly context
The brain-training industry is estimated to have reached $8 billion USD in 2021, despite little evidence that games improve people’s cognitive skills. For example, it is unknown if brain training can help a 90-year-old drive a car safely. Still, initial studies are promising. Researchers have found that video games may enhance cognitive health in older adults and in some countries, brain training for the elderly is expanding. For example, the Hong Kong Society for the Aged designed a game that encourages seniors to do everyday tasks like grocery shopping or matching socks.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the population over 60 is expected to double by 2050, with two billion individuals projected.z This growth in the global senior population is driving investment in a range of services and tools to support this population’s health and continued independence—brain training software falls under the trend.
The widespread availability of smartphones and game consoles has made it easier for seniors to engage in games while multitasking during cooking or watching TV. Additionally, brain training programs have evolved alongside computerized training, with computers, game consoles, and, more recently, smartphones and tablets.
Some research has shown that commercially available cognitive games are effective in improving processing speed, working memory, executive functions, and verbal recall in persons without cognitive impairment over 60 years old. A review of current studies showed that computerized cognitive training (CCT) or video games in healthy older people is somewhat helpful in improving mental performance.
A different research study discussed that despite being two-dimensional, Angry Birds™ gameplay led to enhanced cognitive benefits due to its novelty for the older population. Study participants (aged 60-80) played 30 to 45 minutes daily for four weeks. Researchers conducted memory tests every day after gaming and four weeks after daily gaming had concluded. According to the results, two weeks of Angry Birds™ or Super Mario™ gameplay enhanced recognition memory. Compared to the Solitaire players, after two weeks of daily gameplay, Super Mario™ players’ memory improved, and the improvement continued for over several weeks. The study illustrates that brain training may allow seniors to continue exercising their cognitive functions.
Implications of brain training for the elderly
Wider implications of brain training for the elderly may include:
- Insurance providers including brain training activities and technologies in healthcare packages.
- Hospices, homecare, and other elderly care facilities using daily video games to stimulate the residents’ brain health.
- More cognitive training program developers building senior-friendly games and other interactive activities via smartphones. Developers may also integrate virtual reality technologies to provide seniors with a more immersive gaming experience.
- Increasing research on how brain training can benefit the elderly and improve their quality of life.
- Results from various research will be used to develop games for people with mental impairments and challenges, regardless of age.
Questions to comment on
- How else do you think this technology will help the elderly?
- What are the potential risks of these technologies being used in elder care?
- How can governments incentivize the development of brain training among the elderly?