An estimated four in 10 seniors play virtual games on their computers, mobile devices or consoles, based on a joint survey from AARP and the Entertainment Software Association. This recent trend in adults over 50 can actually offer numerous benefits as they continue to age. For example, research from the University of Montreal has found that seniors who play these games on a consistent basis receive mental stimulation in many areas of the brain such as the prefrontal cortex which hones decision making, the cerebellum which aids in balance and fine motor skills, and the hippocampus which stores memory. As a result, this could mitigate the risk of dementia or Alzheimer’s onset.
In addition to the cognitive benefits, this pastime is also both an enjoyable and accessible way for older adults to become more tech literate. This is important knowledge for seniors to have because tech literacy empowers them to be more connected, secure and informed online. A Pew Research study confirms that two-thirds of seniors use the internet today, but despite these strides in digital inclusion, some older adults are still uncomfortable or unsure of how to interact with technology. As their confidence in this medium grows, however, they become safer and smarter online, and virtual games can reinforce this skill-set. Here are three areas in which seniors benefit from tech literacy.
Tech Literacy Can Broaden Social Connections
Social isolation can be a major concern for seniors—those who live alone, in particular—according to the University of Michigan’s National Poll on Healthy Aging. The data shows 60% of seniors who live alone report a lack of companionship, and 28% indicate this affects their physical health, while another 17% add it impairs their mental health. Since many older adults spend much of their time at home, it’s often difficult to socialize. But access to people online is a source of connection, and virtual games can facilitate this. In fact, a survey from Chumba Casino found one in three gamers make friends on this platform, and 34% consider relationship building to be their favorite part of the activity.
Tech Literacy Can Boost Cybersecurity Measures
“An estimated 67% of older adults in the U.S. have been targets or victims of an internet scam,” warns Vineyard Henderson Memory Care Community. “Seniors are targets because they tend to have financial assets or investments. They’re not as literate in technology as their millennial counterparts. [And] they can be tentative to report the fraudulence out of embarrassment or fear of vulnerability.” In order to practice safe online browsing, seniors need to be comfortable and conscious of how to navigate websites in the first place. Virtual games are easy platforms to learn this confidence on, but it’s important to follow security measures such as using a robust password and withholding private data.
Tech Literacy Can Detect Information Accuracy
The internet is an outlet for so many answers, but this can result in information overload—some of which is inaccurate or unreliable. “Fake news” can be confusing to seniors who are not tech literate and unaware of how misinformation spreads online. Those over 65 tend to be more susceptible to believing myths on the internet than younger populations, notes the University of Western Australia. But as the Stanford Center on Longevity points out, “older people have decades of knowledge and experience as consumers, better decision-making abilities, more control over their emotions, and an ability to stop and think. With the right training, these skills can translate into better decisions about online content.”
Tech literacy equips older adults with the aptitude to navigate the internet safely and maximize its usefulness. Moreover, participation in virtual games can teach them how the internet as a medium works to begin with, so they can become shrewd, informed and proficient online consumers as they age.