Video games are known to have a wide variety of effects on the mind of children and adolescents. However, a new study indicates that gaming may prove to be beneficial for elderly people.

Researchers at the University of Manchester reveal that engaging in video games — which involve physical activity — can improve brain functions in elderly people, preventing the onset of dementia.

The Research And Analysis

The researchers observed the data from 17 clinical trials involving 926 people to understand the effect of gaming on cognitive functioning. The participants were aged between their 30s and 80s. The subjects were asked to play video games for just 15 minutes a day, thrice a week.

The participants partook in games that involved cyber cycling, dancing, and kayaking across a 3D lake.

The data collected from these participants was then compared to that of elderly people who did not engage in such video games, but instead took part in various aerobic exercises and memory training.

Following the study, authors Emma Stanmore and Joseph Firth revealed that physical activity-oriented video games helped increase mental functioning. These games were also shown to significantly improve the overall mental health as people aged.

"The biggest benefit of exergames was in healthy, older individuals. Their executive function for instance - the brain's control room - saw a notable improvement compared to those who just did physical activity such as going for brisk walks, for instance," Firth stated.

It was also surprisingly revealed that older people who were involved in physically intensive video games had better brain functioning vis-à-vis those who were physically active, but did not engage in gaming.

Challenges For Introduction Of Video Games To The Elderly

Firth revealed that although the benefit of these games is now a documented fact, there are still some challenges to its introduction as a form of therapy. Firstly, the older generation are largely unfamiliar with the video game technology and do not prefer engaging in it.

Secondly, the care homes where majority of the elderly people suffering from dementia reside do not house video game technologies such the Xbox and Wii consoles.

However, Firth believes that even though there is considerable difficulty in introducing video games as a form of therapy in the present older generation, the future generations may still benefit from this form of treatment.

"Getting younger people today to carry on using them as they get older could be a valuable tool in the fight against dementia in the future," Firth remarked.

The results of the study have been published in the journal Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews.

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