June 27, 2023
The Entertainment Software Association partnered with Women In Government to host a virtual panel discussion on the power of video games in aging. The webinar included a renowned lineup of policy and technology experts: Texas State Representative Jessica González (D) as moderator with Studio Elsewhere Founder and CEO Mirelle Phillips and AARP Senior Research Advisor Brittne Kakulla, PhD, as panelists. The group discussed the growing presence of older adults in the video game community and the benefits that gameplay has in combating common issues facing aging Americans, such as loneliness and dementia.
“There is a distinct sense of community that gaming brings to the 50+ gamer, whether that’s a way to connect with children or grandchildren or a way to stay in touch and meet new friends online,” said Tara Ryan, vice president of state government affairs at the ESA. “The video game industry is unique in its ability to bridge generations and help alleviate that sense of loneliness or isolation.”
As older adults seek outlets for joy and brain health, video games offer support for healthy aging. According to AARP’s research, 75% of people aged 50+ view meaningful play, including video games, as an important contributor to healthy aging. Finding creative avenues to improve brain health and condition new skills helps support overall well-being. According to the same AARP study, fun, stress relief and maintaining mental agility are leading causes that drove older gamers to log on. “One thing we found that’s unique for the 50+ community is that they game for mental acuity or for staying sharp; they feel like gaming really helps their brain,” said Dr. Kakulla.
Video games can provide a sense of safety, exploration and agency, all of which are key in aiding those struggling with cognitive decline. “Something that’s really important for older adults is an embodied selfhood,” said Phillips. “What we find in working with older adults, and especially those living with dementia, is that play invites something about who their self is at that [present] moment, not who they were.”
Video games also act as a catalyst for relationship building, providing centralized forums that connect people from all walks of life and all geographic locations. “Play, if we design it in an accessible way, can support across generations and it can support what intergenerational social connection can be,” said Phillips.
Accessible digital programs are the instruments that allow for intergenerational connection, Phillips explained. A growing number of studios in the video game industry, including Studio Elsewhere, are committed to developing and pioneering tools that prompt cross-age community. The power of play across generations is promising and the industry continues to support and encourage older adults to participate and find new, innovative ways to provide positive and beneficial outlets for aging game players.
This webinar is the latest installment in an ongoing partnership between Women in Government and the Entertainment Software Association. Women In Government amplifies the voices and work of women legislators and empowers women lawmakers by creating a robust and supportive network.