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Video Games Can Improve Quality of Life for the Elderly

Photo courtesy of Interactive Media Technology
Photo courtesy of Interactive Media Technology

Many studies from the American Medical Association and medical academia have shown a positive correlation between the use of video games and the improvement of memory and cognitive skills for elderly individuals. Video games can provide exciting and engaging ways of helping patients with Alzheimer's disease and dementia improve motor skills, keep their brains active and learn new skills.

My father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, and treated at the Wesley Woods Geriatric Center extension of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. It was challenging to watch a former city administrator with a masters degree slowly lose the cognition and critical thinking skills which helped define his life. A series of tests including word games, card games, and puzzles were used as measurements to benchmark the progression of the disease during his treatments. We were encouraged to use crossword puzzles and other games as a therapeutic tool to improve memory and reasoning skills.

Many elderly individuals lose passion for activities which they were fond of during their early years,
due in part to a physical inability to participate. Video games such as Tiger Woods Golf and Wii Sports are excellent tools to rekindle these interests, as well as exercise the cognitive critical thinking skills which these games can require. An aunt who lived alone in a Philadelphia assisted living community purchased a personal computer at the age of 83.  She took a course on computers offered by the community, and began communicating by email regularly. This computer filled a tremendous void in her life when she began to compose the monthly newsletters for her seniors association, and increased her social interactions because of it. She would often enjoy playing solitaire and scrabble on her computer well into her 90's.

Preserving brain health and quality of life is critical for senior citizens. Many nursing homes and
assisted living communities are strategically deploying video games which have been tested and
proven to assist with the improvement of cognitive skills. Dakim Brain Fitness (http://www.dakim.com/)
is a popular product that is available for PC and Mac computers and used in formal geriatric
programs as well as by home care givers.  With the aging of baby boomers and the number of families opting to provide home care, one should not underestimate the potential benefit of a loving grandchild with a PS2, Xbox, or Wii and a simple game based on the interest of an aging loved one.

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