Despite their potential for mental stimulation, video games currently only provide limited benefits to older care home residents due to the need for “extensive support” from nursing staff, a new study has found.
The research – due to be presented at the Conference of Human Interaction in Seoul in April – confirmed motion-based video games can provide both mental and physical stimulation for older adults in residential care.
However, the study found their use can become “increasingly challenging” for those who require additional support to both access and play the game, meaning it cannot be considered an independent activity.
“Playing [video] games… can be an empowering experience for independent older adults, but may expose the vulnerability of those who experience age-related impairments”
Long-Term Use of Motion-Based Video Games in Care Home Settings report
The study – called Long-Term Use of Motion-Based Video Games in Care Home Settings – took place over a three-month period at two care homes in Canada.
It looked at the practical challenges and opportunities from using games in a group setting by observing and interviewing 16 residents.
The researchers found that “playing games in a social setting can be an empowering and appealing experience for independent older adults, but may expose the vulnerability of those who experience age-related impairments”.
The extent to which people experience the benefits of gaming is determined largely by how much assistance the resident needs for the activity, and whether they feel comfortable playing games in a group setting, it found.
Previous studies have shown that, in residential care, games offer an opportunity to experience competence. But the new research also indicated that in situations where games highlight age-related changes, they may actually reduce perceived competence.
“Games could be an amazing opportunity,” said lead researcher Kathrin Gerling from the University of Lincoln, who warned of the “extensive support” required for some older people to take part.
“People are really enthusiastic about the potential of games, but in the field it was hard to get people playing because of the amount of support that was necessary”
“People are really enthusiastic about the potential of games but in the field it was hard to get people playing because of the amount of support that was necessary just to enable people to attend the sessions,” she said.
“The games sessions worked when volunteering staff were there, but when they weren’t available it was very difficult,” she told Nursing Times.
Mrs Gerling said she wanted to see the game industry develop new formats of games that older people could use more independently.
“When people are able to take ownership of the experience it requires minimal support from staff. In these cases, I think the workload for nurses and carers could even be reduced,” she said.
Mrs Gerling added that future games should be developed so their design can be tailored to specific groups of older people according to their level of ability.
“There’s a lot of untapped potential here, but if we want more people to benefit we have quite a long way to go in terms of development.
“Before it [video playing in care homes] can become mainstream, we need to develop systems that are more accessible and easier to use,” she said.