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Older Australians aiming to age well are getting into gaming

The number of older Australians playing video games is on the up, and for good reason, according to the latest results in a series of studies into video games in Australia.

Research shows that 43 percent of Australians over 65 play video games (Source: Shutterstock)
Research shows that 43 percent of Australians over 65 play video games (Source: Shutterstock)

Studying 1,234 households and 3,135 individuals, Digital Australia 2018 revealed that Australian’s over the age of 65 continue to make up the largest group of new players over the past six years.

Lead author of the report and professor at Bond University, Dr Jeff Brand says that 43 percent of over 65’s now play video games.

“There are certain stereotypes that society has created about video games and the reality is that it’s not just teenage boys playing games in their room,” he says.

“The average age of video gamers is going up and through the study, people are talking to us about their experiences and older adults explain why they play, what they get out of it and one thing that I kept reading in the responses was that people believed that videogames are useful in improving mental, physical and social wellbeing.”

In the past, Dr Brand says the number of people playing video games used to decline with age – especially in the 65-84 age bracket but now, in the last two studies conducted, an increase in women aged 65 and over taking part in gameplay is occurring instead of the historic decline.

“This increase was seen in this recent study and the one before, and it surprised me to my core as a researcher,” he says.

“It really breaks down three really big stereotypes about videogames: that only the young play video games, that video games are for men, and that as you age, game playing declines.”

As part of the study, a survey is completed by each participant about the reasons why they play video games, how long for and what games they play.

“The women aged over 65 are, on average, spending an hour to an hour and a half participating in gameplay each day – and mostly interactive games with people they know like Words With Friends,” Dr Brand says.

“Traditionally when we ask the adults participating in the survey why they play video games, the top reasons are to have fun and pass time, but over the last two studies in particular, we can certainly see that as the age of players continues to increase, the main reason for playing changes to keeping an active mind.

“For the women playing games in the 65 and over bracket who are increasing in numbers, the main reason they are giving for their game play is to fend off dementia and they are mentioning it far more than men.”

In the study survey, participants were asked if they believed that video games potentially help people age well and the results show that 90 percent say they believe video games have the potential to help with ageing well, with 80 percent thinking it is useful in fighting off dementia, while 75 percent believe video games improve life satisfaction and help to live life optimistically.

“I believe that the positive benefits of ageing with games are many and that now as people age, they want to age well and they do believe that gaming can help with positive ageing – it’s reflected in the answers participants were giving us,” Dr Brand says.

“They believe they can keep their minds active and pass the time in a productive way.”

The games that older Australian’s are reported as playing include Nintendo Wii and Wii Fit (especially in aged care and retirement living), Minecraft, Civilisation (a game about world history), AAA titles (online action adventure games that are played in order to connect with grandchildren), and games on smartphones and tablets.

“There are some very powerful observations of what videogames are used for; and what was once a toy, is now a full-blown medium with a wide audience,” Dr Brand says.

“One of the most critical messages this is all sending to me is that just because you are older, it doesn’t mean you can’t explore emerging media and enjoy new technology.”

The full Digital Australia 2018 report is available online


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