Although the benefits of incorporating video games such as those offered by Nintendo Wii or Microsoft Kinect into long-term care settings have been well-documented, a new study questions their overall effectiveness in long-term residential care and points to challenges arising from age-related impairments.
Kathrin Gerling, PhD, from the School of Computer Science at the University of Lincoln in the United Kingdom, in collaboration with Regan Mandryk, PhD, at the University of Saskatchewan and Conor Linehan, PhD, at University College, Cork, Ireland, studied the use of video games by residents in two long-term care facilities, including one that specializes in age-related impairments such as dementia and mobility impairments.
Among the findings was that the extent to which residents enjoyed the games, experienced a sense of accomplishment or learned new skills depended largely on whether they had developed any age-related impairments.
“You always have a split of people who like playing video games and those who don’t, no matter what age. But older people learning to play new games in public may feel particularly uncomfortable if they are experiencing vulnerability over their age-related changes and impairments,” Gerling said in a press release. “Some older adults require extensive support, both to gain access to gaming sessions and throughout play.
“We need to make sure that video games created for older adults in long-term care are adaptive—there’s a fine line between challenging people and giving them something meaningful to accomplish, as opposed to doing harm,” she added. “To be successful, games need to engage players of all abilities and be tailored towards specific groups. It’s really important to be mindful of the context in which games will be played and be understanding of the individual abilities of the player. This is particularly important when evaluating the value of games for improving the quality of life, and when creating games with a purpose beyond entertainment, such as therapy and rehabilitation.”