LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ)- During the pandemic, a lot of people say they’ve been turning to video games to stay connected to people while also staying safely distant.
Research shows, though, there’s another benefit to playing, especially for the crowd that might be old enough to have an AARP membership.
Michael Brooks, of Lexington, was born in 1973, but started playing in 1977.
“First game was probably Pac-Man on the Atari 2600,” Brooks said.
He even calls himself “Huge Old Gamer”.
He doesn’t just play because it’s fun.
He also games for his health.
Several studies have shown playing has cognitive benefits. For example, psychology professors at the University of Montreal found playing 3D platforming games can ward off mild cognitive impairment, and possibly even prevent Alzheimer’s disease if you’re between 55 and 75. Another study from market research firm Elsevier found gamers older than 63 reported higher levels of happiness versus their peers who don’t play.
“Every sort of disease you can imagine seems to have a video game,” UK College of Pharmacy Professor Robert Lodder, PhD, said.
Lodder says there are games to help you research or get over your fear of public speaking.
So what makes them more effective at keeping the mind sharp? Why not just a puzzle?
“It’s the flexibility. I think it’s the fact that you can make it so much like real life tasks if you want,” Lodder said.
A 2019 AARP survey shows 44% of Americans 50 and up enjoy video games. That’s almost half that age group.
Brooks says gaming helps his hand eye coordination, especially after a bad car wreck this summer.
“It takes your life and just gives you a whole new perspective,” Brooks said.
Brooks broke his back and a rib. He worried not for himself, but for his family.
“You always hear the phrase it could be gone in a second and I’ve lived that and it can,” Brooks said.
He says it’s metal holding him together now, and his controller.
After the crash, he couldn’t play for 12 days.
“But to me it felt like a lifetime because it’s something that it’s a daily thing. It’s just embedded in my fiber,” Brooks said.
Games helped bring him back.
He pressed the on button almost as soon as he got home from the hospital.
“God saved my life and this is what’s been missing and now, I kind of have a different outlook. Different perspective, but this part of it didn’t go away,” Brooks said.
He’s back to work now and gaming on the weekends. Some small scars and a folded walker in his man cave are the only signs of the crash.
He says his family and coworkers sometimes don’t understand, but to him, and so many others, gaming isn’t a game. It’s a chance at a better life.
Brooks says video games often get a bad rap, but he wants people to know they’re not all violent; there’s something for everyone.
Professor Lodder says if you want to start playing for cognitive benefits, the best option is to try to get into a video game study. He says those games will likely already be pretty good and you’ll receive training on how to use them effectively.
A lot of games aren’t designed with therapeutics in mind, he says, so it can be hard to learn to use them in an effective way.
Lodder says even if you can’t get into a study, you can still get benefits from playing. He suggests picking a game that will let you practice the skills you need to improve. He recommends Steam because it has a wide variety.