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Gaming for Grown-ups

Older Americans discover benefits of play


spinner image happy man playing a video game and winning
Getty Images

Technological tools such as smartphones, smart homes and chatbots are transforming life as we know it. That includes how those of us 50 and older have fun. A growing body of research reveals that more of us are turning to gaming technologies to entertain us and help us stay sharp as we age.

spinner image AARP CEO JoAnn Jenkins, illustration
Illustration by Michael Hoeweler

A new AARP study finds that there are more than 52 million gamers over the age of 50. That’s an increase of 12 million since 2016.

I am one of them. My games of choice are Candy Crush and Triominos. Playing them is fun and also helps me stay connected to friends. I am not alone in finding social connection through gaming. Our research reveals that a majority of 50-plus gamers say the time they spend playing is beneficial to their well-being.

That is why AARP recently held its first Games Summit on April 18 at our headquarters in Washington, D.C. The event drew more than 420 representatives from leading video gaming companies, higher education institutions, government agencies and AARP teams. Attendees learned about trends and preferences from AARP’s exclusive research and explored elements of age-friendly design.

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One goal of the summit was to develop a closer connection between the video gaming industry and the important 50-plus market.

The demand for games that cater to people over 50 will continue to grow. But Summit attendees learned that 69 percent of older gamers feel that video games are not designed with them in mind. Many said the games can be too complicated, and others noted they need tutorials to play effectively. As a result, 50-plus gamers feel like an afterthought to the gaming industry.

The voices of older gamers can influence designers to develop more games for us. We know that part of living well as you age is staying mentally engaged, being socially connected and relaxing through what we at AARP call meaningful play—and gaming can help achieve that.

Sami Hassanyeh, AARP senior vice president of digital strategy and membership, touts the social connectedness benefits of gaming: “Multigenerational gaming is empowering. It helps build teamwork and camaraderie and teaches a sense of kindness.”

This is borne out by research. A study supported by the National Institute on Aging discovered that video games may be used to enhance cognitive health in older adults. Scientists at the University of California, San Francisco’s Neuroscape center developed a suite of video game interventions that improve cognition in aging adults, including short- and long-term memory and attention.

More than 2 million users come to our website, aarp.org, to game every month. They enjoy playing our games—including Right Again! Trivia, SongTheme (powered by Spotify) and Throwback Thursday Crossword—​because they provide stress relief, mental stimulation, social connection, digital/technical literacy and fun. AARP and the gaming industry are learning a lot from you.

Whether you prefer word games, board games, card games or puzzles, there is a place for you at the online table of meaningful play. Enjoy!

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