En español | If your mental image of a “gamer” is a young basement dweller, you need to hit the refresh key.
A gamer these days is simply anyone who enjoys playing video games – all genders, all income levels, every personality type and all ages. Yes, all ages! What surprises some people is that the population of video game fans is rapidly expanding to include legions of people 50 and older, the majority of whom I’d guess are not still camping out with their parents.
AARP recently conducted a survey with the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) on the attitudes and habits of gamers age 50+. We found that 41 million Americans age 50 and older — that’s one in three — play on a regular basis. Three-fourths of them play weekly, and four in 10 play daily. And, among players age 60 and older, 43 percent play video games every day.
“Games” is also one of the most popular sections on our website, aarp.org, with over 1.1 million unique visitors a month.
Video games are truly ageless. Those of us 50 and older play them for the same reasons everyone else does: Games are fun, allow us a little break from the real world, enhance our digital skills, and can be good exercise for body and mind. They are accessible to almost everyone, almost everywhere.
Right now, the games we offer on aarp.org are geared toward one player. We get huge numbers of people playing, but we want our gaming offerings to evolve. We’re especially interested in exploring how gaming with other players might help to combat loneliness and social isolation, which can be problems for older people with physical limitations, transportation challenges or caregiving responsibilities that keep them home-bound.
Video gaming also shows promise as a way to connect the generations, as children, parents and grandparents play together and share an interactive interest. One in six of the 50+ gamers in our survey said their children or grandchildren influence their choice of games.
AARP has allied with ESA on research that’s giving us tremendous insight into video gamers who are 50 and older and their engagement with social games. We’ve also teamed up to sponsor a “GameJam” that challenges post-secondary student game designers to develop game concepts that promote social connections.
GameJam finalists will have an opportunity to pitch their proposals to a panel of industry experts and celebrity judges at the annual E3 Expo in Los Angeles on June 16, and the team with the top idea will win $10,000. We’ll keep you posted on the results.
AARP also recently published the book My Digital Entertainment for Seniors, which devotes an entire chapter to learning about video games, devices, rating systems and more.
Video games and gaming technology can potentially play a role in helping us all to age better.
And chasing zombies is fun at any age.
Jo Ann Jenkins is CEO of AARP.
Video: AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins Appears on 'Dr. Phil' Show - “Disrupt Aging” author Jo Ann Jenkins challenges people to change the conversation about aging and embrace what it means to grow older during her recent appearance on the Dr. Phil show.