Playing video games helps older adults feel sharper – survey

14 Sep 2011

Playing video games may contribute to feeling sharper while performing other tasks among adults over the age of 50, a survey suggests.

Video-game developer and publisher PopCap Games and University of Massachusetts Amherst psychology researcher Susan K Whitbourne, PhD, presented the results of a survey that compared the video-game playing habits of older and younger adults at this year’s American Psychological Association’s (APA) annual convention in Washington, DC.  

The survey of more than 10,000 US adults looked into Bejeweled Blitz as a cognitive training tool for older adults.

According to Whitbourne, of those who play Bejeweled Blitz regularly, 47pc of adults over 50 reported feeling sharper while performing other tasks and 23.9pc of adults over 65 felt their ability to see patterns improved and they were also slightly more likely to state that they could perform timed tasks more quickly (23.9pc).

The survey is reportedly the first in a series to examine the cognitive value of video-game play on an older audience.

Cognitive tasks involved in the game play of Bejeweled Blitz require rapid decision making, conjunctive visual search skills and reaction time.

Whitbourne believes Bejeweled Blitz is a plausible platform for improving cognitive skills because it requires several of the skills that have been shown to be improved in action video games. If certain cognitive skills can be improved through action training, then perhaps those skills can also be improved through Bejeweled Blitz training.

The results were well received by fellow researchers attending the APA convention.  

“I believe the work Dr Whitbourne and her colleagues are doing, using Bejeweled Blitz, is both critical and exciting, and that more research like this needs to be done exploring not only the types of games that bring about cognitive benefits, but also the types of games older adults are willing to play and why,” said Dr Walter Boot, director of the Attention and Training Lab of the Department of Psychology at Florida Sate University.