Javascript is not enabled.

Javascript must be enabled to use this site. Please enable Javascript in your browser and try again.

Skip to content
Content starts here


Leaving Website

You are now leaving and going to a website that is not operated by AARP. A different privacy policy and terms of service will apply.

Why Video Games Click With People 50-Plus

Older players want to be entertained but also compete to stay sharp, lower stress, make friends

spinner image a phone with a video game on it that says start and one player or two player

People age 50 and older play video games to avoid boredom, reduce stress, stay mentally fit and, oh yeah, have fun.

spinner image Image Alt Attribute

AARP Membership— $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.

Join Now

For retired nurse Sandy Barber, 66, of Plainfield, Connecticut, game play has provided something more, a “lifeline to sanity,” as she puts it. Though Barber has been playing games of one kind or another on various platforms since the mid-1970s, video games help these days to distract her momentarily from the extreme sadness she has felt since her son Michael, 45, took his own life in 2020 during the pandemic.

spinner image a headshot of sandy barber
Sandy Barber
Courtesy: Sandy Barber

“It gives me a means of escape, relaxation, friendships I would never [think] I had or would need,” Barber says. She forged a bond with a thirtysomething couple from the United Kingdom, whom she met through a group on Facebook devoted to the Animal Crossing social simulation game.

“The younger friends I meet and can talk [with] about the games they are playing keeps my spirits up,” Barber says. “Their support helped me through my darkest times.”

Electronic games aren’t just for the young

Video games are stereotyped as the digital playing fields of youth. But the ranks of gamers 50 and older have grown by more than 12 million in the past six years, a 30 percent increase, according AARP Research. A little less than half of older adults said they played video games in 2022, up from 38 percent six years earlier, representing more than 24 percent of all video game players.

Using different age groupings, New York-based Insider Intelligence market research firm found that 36.6 percent of all adults 45 and older played games digitally through the internet. The figures include games played on a console, desktop, laptop, mobile app, social network or web browser.

  • 11 and younger, 9.2 percent
  • ​12 to 17, 9.8 percent
  • 18 to 24, 12.4 percent
  • 25 to 34, 17.6 percent
  • 35 to 44, 14.3 percent
  • 45 to 54, 12.3 percent
  • 55 to 64, 11.8 percent
  • 65 and older, 12.5 percent

While some players discover gaming later in life, perhaps to connect with their kids or grandkids, many have been at it on and off for decades, even dating to the era of Pong and Asteroids. Following his wife’s death, some of the lifelong friends that gamer Joe Shaw met while playing were able to console him.

“That’s part of it, the camaraderie, the companionship that you have from sharing a particular interest,” says the retired national trainer for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, 73, who lives in Magna, Utah.

“I remember playing a game with a younger man and I mentioned something about my age,” Shaw says. “He said, ‘Wow, why are you playing games?’ Well, I’ve been gaming one way or another before that kid was born."

The friendships that Barber has made with younger players enrich her life, she says. She plays Pokémon and other games with her UK pals hours on end. They’ve invited her to visit England.

She’s also worked as a school bus driver after retiring from nursing and now works part-time at Lowe’s.

“I was always able to strike up a conversation with the kids about the games they were playing,” Barber says. “I find my gaming has given me a broader connection to the younger generations.”

And she plays with her other kids and grandkids, too, joking, “They have to come rescue me. ‘Grammy died again,’ lol. I jump around on [Sony] PlayStation, [Nintendo] Switch, and the PC. Depends who is around and wants to play together.”

Technology & Wireless

Consumer Cellular

5% off monthly fees and 30% off accessories

See more Technology & Wireless offers >

Older players are diverse

Fresh research from AARP, released in advance of the AARP Games Summit for developers and industry leaders April 18 at its District of Columbia headquarters, reveals that the 50-plus gamer of today can’t be stereotyped either. Older video game players are diverse in age, commitment and savviness.

“A key part of living well as you age is staying mentally engaged and relaxing through play and staying socially connected. This is ‘meaningful play,’ [which we see] as a healthy part of aging,” AARP Chief Executive Jo Ann Jenkins says in a video address to be shown at the summit.

Danielle Volkar, 55, of Pittsburgh, epitomizes what AARP categorizes as the most passionate segment of gamers 50 and older. She built her own computer for the sole purpose of playing video games every day, which she prefers over playing on mobile.

“The games force you to react faster, make you think 10 steps ahead of what other players are doing, and to keep track of everything that you possess and how you are able to use those items in game with your character,” Volkar says.

Most popular games played on smartphones

Among the 50-plus crowd that AARP surveyed, 84 percent play on their smartphones, up from 73 percent in 2019. Three in 10 say they use their smartphones exclusively for gaming. More than half prefer mobile, which includes tablets, to other platforms.

AARP Research characterizes Denver resident Kathy Lamos, 71, who doesn’t believe the gamer label applies to her, as more of a “mainstream” participant. Lamos typically plays Solitaire or the Wordscapes puzzle every day on her phone, sometimes while watching TV or riding in a car.

A different kind of word puzzle, the New York Times-owned viral sensation Wordle that folks try to solve daily on their smartphones, is also extremely popular with older players.​

“Gaming fulfills many roles: the socializing aspect, … the mental acuity challenges and mental working out, so to speak. It provides escape as few other things can."


“I see video games as what my grandchildren play,” Lamos says. Like many people of her generation, she favors games that are easy to jump in and start playing but that also are challenging.

AARP’s portfolio of retro, trivia, word and other casual games numbers more than 100, including about a third that are for AARP members only. Casual games are the most popular with the 50-plus gamer, according to AARP Research.

spinner image membership-card-w-shadow-192x134

Join AARP today for $16 per year. Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP The Magazine.

Games such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, the second best-selling game in February, according to market information company NPD Group, are generally less popular among those 50 and older, especially as people age.

“People want to know they still have knowledge, that they are still bright and have their faculties. And solving these word puzzles, trivia questions are all very positive gratification points for our users and keep them coming back,” says Maura White, AARP’s senior director of gaming and community.

Console usage has also grown substantially among 50-plus players, according to AARP Research, partly because of the popularity of the tablet-sized Nintendo Switch but also the staying power of Microsoft’s Xbox and Sony’s PlayStation. But more than half of users surveyed play on desktop computers, laptops and tablets as well. And about 1 in 5 folks play on what are not typically thought of gaming-first devices, including smart speakers and smart TVs.

​Game play exercises the mind

Bradford Miller, now 66, has been playing video games since he was 17, from fast twitch-reaction games to turn-based tactical and strategic titles. He goes by NeoRocket when he’s competing online.

Free games, trivia and more

​​AARP has games you can play for free — some for members only — including puzzle games, video versions of board and card games, and Atari arcade classics.

“Gaming fulfills many roles: the socializing aspect, … the mental acuity challenges and mental working out, so to speak.” says the former Marine now living in Casa Grande, Arizona. “It provides escape as few other things can.

“Some games have you essentially starring in an action movie, or a sci-fi movie or a fantasy movie or a horror movie or even a whodunnit,” he says. “Anyone of any age or gender or social strata or financial standing or intelligence or disposition, can find ... their game or games.”

Trip Hawkins, the founder of video game pioneer Electronic Arts (EA) and keynote speaker at the AARP Games Summit, agrees.

“There’s something for everybody” in video games, he said in an interview. “And you don’t have to feel like you’re being thrown into the deep end of the pool.”

What frustrates mature gamers

Even so, several factors derail some older folks’ enjoyment of games. Ads or the need to purchase things within a game to graduate to a higher tier are an annoyance. And numerous people in the AARP study feel like many games are too complicated and that the industry develops games with older players as an afterthought.

“The people who design these games believe that their audience is the younger generation, the teenagers, the younger kids,” says Ketrick Copeland, 53, of Denver. “If they created games that reflected my age group a little more than, yeah, I would definitely play games a lot more than I am.”

But passionate gamer Volkar recommends everyone give video games a try. “The older the better,” she says. “Teach those kids a lesson.”

Discover AARP Members Only Access

Join AARP to Continue

Already a Member?