Gaming for Retirees: Building Social Connections in the Digital Age
When most people imagine a “gamer”, they picture a teenager or twenty-something stuck behind a desk playing into the late hours of the night.
However, older adults can be just as frequent a gamer. Over half of adults over the age of 50 now play a video game of some kind, as many find that the social benefits and intellectual challenge of gaming can combat the loneliness and stress that folks feel in retirement.
If you’re entering your golden years, there are plenty of games that can support your social life and pique your engagement. You may just need to make a few changes to your current set-up but can start building a new social life through your gaming hobby today.
The Benefits of Gaming
Gaming isn’t just a pastime to help occupy your time during retirement. Gaming has serious cognitive, social, and physical benefits including:
- Slows down cognitive decline
- Improve multitasking abilities
- Enhances brain flexibility
- Improves focus and attention
- Strengthens social skills
Gaming can be particularly beneficial if you’re struggling with life in retirement. Gaming can help you rediscover your sense of purpose as a retiree and help you build interest in a new kind of hobby. You’ll quickly discover that games like Stardew Valley, No Man’s Sky, and World of Warcraft are highly creative and can help you learn new skills.
Getting Set Up
Gaming is a great way to build social bonds and improve your cognitive function. Before you start, you may need to upgrade your current setup to run the games that pique your interest.
If you’re playing on a console (PS5, Xbox, Switch), you’re already in a great position to start gaming online. Just test your internet speed before you go online, as you’ll need speeds above 25 Mbps and should have a “ping” of less than 50ms. You can improve your internet speed by installing fiber optics in your home and connecting your console via an ethernet cable. This will maximize your Wi-Fi performance and ensure that you can keep up with other players.
If you’re gaming on a PC, you’ll need to make sure that your setup is up to spec. Use the task manager (CTRL+Shift+Esc) to open your task manager and compare your hardware to the minimum required specifications for the game you want to play.
Once you’re set up, consider investing in some gaming room upgrades. You do not need a high-tech room to start gaming, but a well-built space can help you show off your style. Consider small at first — like dimmable lighting and calming wall colors — before going in for big-ticket items like gaming chairs and new monitors.
Finding Other Older Players
Gaming online with people you trust is a real boon in retirement. However, you may struggle to find like-minded folks at first. You may even encounter a few “trolls” along the way, as some folks choose to spend their days winding up fellow players.
Improve your chances of finding players that you like by joining relevant discord channels and Reddit communities. For example, if you wanted to find other people to play Stardew Valley with, you could join the Stardew Valley Discord or r/StardewValleyFriends. These pages are highly moderated and are designed to help folks find other players.
It’s perfectly natural to feel a little nervous when joining an online community for the first time. Remember, everyone was a newbie at some point and most folks will be authentically excited to “teach” you their favorite game. Stick with a game you love and, eventually, you’ll feel like an important member of your digital community.
As mentioned, gaming is great for your mental health and well-being. However, it’s easy to get sucked into the screen if you’re feeling a little blue or struggling to find a purpose in retirement. Excessive gaming can even lead to health conditions like:
- Carpal Tunnel;
- Gamer’s Thumb;
- Unwanted weight gain.
Gaming addiction is a serious issue and you should take proactive, preventive steps to avoid it. Start by setting a time limit for your new gaming hobby and arrange real-world activities outside of the virtual world. This will give you something to look forward to outside of gaming and reduce your risk of developing unhealthy, addictive reliance on gaming.
Try to play a range of games to reduce your risk of developing a gaming addiction. This will broaden your horizons and help you find new communities, too. Remember that you can organize physical meet-ups with your gamer pals, too, which may be a good way to keep the whole team healthy. You can also discover video games such as Ring Fit Adventure or other virtual reality games that gamify physical activity. Not only will you enjoy recreational and social benefits from these games, but they’ll be good for your physical health as well.
Gaming is for everyone, and there are plenty of benefits for every gamer to enjoy. As long as you keep an eye on your screen time and balance your daily life with other activities, you can enjoy these benefits at any time.