Level Up Your Mind: How Video Games Mentally Benefit Aging Populations
There’s increasing recognition that your retirement years needn’t be the stereotype of slowing down and doing traditional “elderly people” activities. Indeed, part of the key to maintaining your wellness is to keep pursuing things that keep you engaged and active.
This isn’t just about heading out for daily yoga, team sports or bingo nights. Recently, reports have emerged that state playing video games has significant mental wellness benefits. These range from addressing mood and emotional challenges to boosting cognitive abilities. Far from the often demonized profile it has in popular media, you may find taking up gaming to be an engaging, healthy, and fun way to spend your time.
Let’s explore this idea further. How can video games benefit aging populations and how can you make the most of it?
Treating Gaming as an Enriching Hobby
It’s worth remembering that video games aren’t a passive form of entertainment. Gamers are actively engaging with the media they consume. They’re controlling the action, making careful decisions, and connecting with narratives. This makes gaming more than just a medium. Rather, it can be an enriching hobby.
This is valuable knowledge as a retiree. After all, finding hobbies in retirement is essential for combating emotional and cognitive decline. It’s important, though, to pay the same level of consideration to gaming as you would any other pastime in later life. Some of the aspects you’ll need to think about include:
- Your budget: Taking on a hobby that puts strain on your finances is not likely to be great for your mental well-being. Research the costs of gaming equipment and the games themselves. Consider which is more conducive to your available cash without causing additional stress.
- Your interests: Establishing whether a hobby is likely to be interesting to you can help you understand whether you’re likely to stick with it. Explore the many different types of games available. Would you prefer casual platformers or something more strategic, like role-playing games?
- Your available time: Taking on an enriching hobby requires an investment of time. Some games will take longer than others to play to completion. For instance, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla takes an average of 135 hours. You may find you’ll need to find ways to free up additional time, such as reducing your TV viewing or finding games you can play in small increments.
Remember, though, that the point of a hobby is also to have some fun. Alongside the serious considerations of finding the right pastime, make certain that you take steps to emphasize your enjoyment.
Making Social Connections
Another of the main ways that gaming can be mentally beneficial to you in retirement is it has an increasingly social aspect. Sure, there are many games you can play on your own. However, faster internet connections have made it practical for people to make friends and compete online. This pastime is a great way to fend off the sense of isolation that can threaten your wellness in later life.
So, what are some of the things you can do to enhance the social connections of gaming?
- Prioritize positive gamers: Online gaming often has a reputation for toxic behavior, such as bullying. Therefore, to have the best impact on your mental health, you need to prioritize finding positive online gaming communities. This may involve joining groups on gaming forums, such as Discord.
- Create the right space: Though you may be primarily interacting online, it’s still important to create a space where you can comfortably and confidently socialize with others. Some people adapt their garages as gaming areas. However, it’s worth taking steps to soundproof your garage. This can block external noise from disrupting your conversations and prevent you from disturbing others when your play gets intense or exciting. You might consider fitting sound-dampening material to the inside of your garage door and sealing gaps in any windows and connecting doors.
Don’t forget that the social element of gaming doesn’t have to be limited to your online activities. Gaming conventions and e-sports events can be great ways to meet like-minded individuals of all ages. You may find you don’t just find gaming partners, but start to develop genuinely enriching friendships.
Optimizing Cognitive and Psychological Impacts
If you’re specifically pursuing video games to boost your mental well-being, it’s worth making targeted choices. Yes, in general, gaming has the potential to stimulate your cognitive processes and boost your mood. Nevertheless, different approaches to playing support different outcomes. Identify how you can optimize your gaming to influence the attributes you most want to boost.
- Improving coordination: Your priorities may be to address a cognitive decline that has affected your coordination, which makes daily life quite challenging. Studies have found that certain video games improve coordination when played consistently over time. First-person shooting and driving games are types to prioritize if this is among your goals.
- Improving problem-solving: Cognitive decline in later years can make it more difficult to solve problems, even those you may have previously excelled at. Playing mystery and puzzle-based games provides you with activities that push your problem-solving skills.
There is certainly no guarantee that games alone will reverse or help you manage cognitive and psychological challenges. Instead, consider them another tool in a wider plan, alongside brain-training and emotional resilience activities in your everyday life.
Taking up gaming as a hobby in later life can help you reap massive mental wellness benefits. That said, it’s important to approach the process mindfully. Know what you want to get out of gaming and really lean into the elements that help you achieve this. Additionally, it’s important to safeguard other areas of your health as you play. Be mindful of how screen time affects your eyes and sedentary gaming could impact your physical health. By making well-informed decisions, you can find gaming to be a holistically enriching retirement pastime.