7 video games for seniors that are great for the mind, and body
Build farms, level up and go on temple runs to sharpen your brain
For the last three years, a friend’s mother has been rescuing animals everyday – puppies, pandas and even piglets. It’s her post-lunch ritual, except when her dying phone battery comes in the way. But most of the time, it’s Pet Rescue Saga, one of the most popular video games for seniors, that really rescues her grey matter.
My father often asks me, “Do you have a life?” As I nervously start narrating my existential crises, he rephrases, “I meant a life on Candy Crush? I want to complete this level today.” Last I checked, he was on level 5,211, only a step away from my statuesque levels of procrastination. Though I am one demand-of-life away from deleting the game from his phone, scientific studies assure me that gaming isn’t only for rebellious millennials.
In the last few years, the number of older adults who play video games frequently has grown from 40.2 million in 2016 to 50.6 million gamers in 2019, according to a study conducted by American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) last year.
Video games attract bad press for the impact of violent gameplay on young minds. Last year, World Health Organization recognised ‘Gaming Disorder’ as a modern medical condition. And while there are cons, one can’t deny the other side of the joystick – the one that improves brain function, and keeps you young.
According to researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, video games for seniors enhance cognitive control, and can allegedly reverse some of the negative effects of ageing on the brain. “Video game training may have improved our study participants’ ability to stay in an engaged, active state for a longer period of time,” said Joaquin A. Anguera, one of the authors of the study.
The logic is simple: In normal life skills, like driving or cooking, when you get better at something, the task gets easier. But with video games, as you level up, it gets more challenging, leading to improved cognitive functioning. Video games that require physical interaction (like FIFA titles) improve balance and coordination due to the quick reflexes and decision-making required to play. This sharpens critical skills, gait and physical performance and, in some cases, promotes emotional well-being. Some seniors have even registered faster walking speeds after playing video games.
It’s a ‘winner, winner, chicken dinner’ situation all the way. If you’ve been wary of getting sucked into the virtual vortex, these are good reasons to start clicking. And if you’re tired of your grown-up children asking you to get off the phone and get moving, tell them, armed with this newly-acquired knowledge, “My brain is working out, I can’t move.”
To save you the pain of diving into the app stores in search of the right game, we put together a catalogue of games that score big on wellness.
7 video games for seniors for a healthy body and a happier mind
Lumosity: Brain Training
This brain trainer of an app is used by over 85 million people across the globe. The app has garnered a reputation for boosting problem-solving skills and reasoning in adults over the age of 50. It’s a mixed bag of brain teasers, featuring over hundreds of memory games, crossword puzzles, maths problems, trivia and quizzes.
In the free version, you can play three games every day and the built-in personal brain trainer rates your performance across ‘memory, attention, problem-solving, flexibility and speed’. The paid version unlocks a personal training program where you can design specific goals and choose games to play accordingly.
Lumosity; free with in-app purchases
Super Mario Run
Bit-sized Mario in blue dungarees and red shirt has always been a winner. We loved his Nintendo version, jumping from one mission to another, shooting poisonous turtles and collecting coins. We loved building him using Lego blocks, and now that he has found a way into our phone screens, turns out, Mario also increases the growth of the cerebellum and hippocampus (the part of the brain where long-term memories are formed) in older adults.
Changing landscapes, increased difficulty in missions and being in a constant state of movement teases the brain to up its game.
For all the entertainment you provide, we hope we can return the favour and help you reach Princess Peach every single time, dear Mario.
Words with Friends
Perhaps, you’ve lost a few friendships along the way over a super competitive game of Scrabble. We’ve been there too. But it’s time for sweet reconciliation. Words with Friends lets you invite friends or play with strangers and boosts your vocabulary.
The app is also loaded with shorter weekly challenges, a practice mode, an in-app dictionary to end squabbles, word of the day and game statistics for performance tracking. The social component of the game lets you chat with your opponent during the game as well.
It’s the perfect substitute for an in-person game of Scrabble in these times of forced isolation.
Words with Friends; free with in-app purchases
Mister Smith and His Adventures
You may be nearing retirement or have officially become a senior citizen, but still feel you haven’t taken enough risks in your life. If that’s your grouse, funnyman Mister Smith is inviting you to take risks on his behalf and help him dodge life’s many misadventures; there’s a murder mystery involved too.
The interactive game is rooted in story-telling where the choices you make define the course of the gameplay. As you progress through chapters of Mr Smith’s life, the game requires you to remember details of his childhood, college days and work experience, and you need to complete quizzes based on his story to move forward, thus challenging your memory and hippocampal grey matter.
This is one of the video games for seniors that boosts problem-solving, sharpens memory and develops a faster response rate to stimuli. Happy adventures!
Mister Smith and His Adventures; free with in-app purchases
Candy Crush Saga
Welcome to the only candy land that even diabetics can enjoy without guilt.
Shuffle and reshuffle colourful candies to form a three-of-a-kind match or bigger cube to smash rows and columns of candies. Demolish the blocks until you reach your goal within a time limit or a stipulated number of moves.
But it’s not a cakewalk. The game that boasts of 8,405 levels requires superior mental agility to process the pattern and make rapid moves as the time bomb keeps ticking. The quick problem-solving improves cognitive abilities and is known to slow down any brain-related diseases.
Candy lovers; we hope you never run out of lives.
Candy Crush Saga; free with in-app purchases
Call of Duty
So your grandson and man cub of a son spend hours hurling abuses at strangers and killing them on PUBG. And you’re obviously too cool for that.
Snatch that gaming console or download the timeless shooter game, Call of Duty. Because old is gold.
In this first-person shooter game, your problem-solving skills are put to test as you tackle unforeseen enemies and take care of them on this violent survivor series. It’s known to sharpen your mind and chisel those quick reflexes. There’s no retirement age in this duty, you’ve just got to go for the kill.
Call of Duty; free with in-app purchases
If you’re tired of fighting over the legitimacy of words in Scrabble and Words with Friends, download Wordscapes. In this crossword-meets-word search game, you have to find as many words as you can from a given set of letters.
As you clear missions, the difficulty levels rise leaving you in a word lurch. It’s a great brain workout, especially if you’re someone who has been religiously solving crossword puzzles in newspapers.
Wordscapes; free with in-app purchases