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01 August 2017

Video games and Nintendo join card games and Bingo as weapons in the fight against Alzheimer’s

Video games and Nintendo join card games and Bingo as weapons in the fight against Alzheimer’s

Board games like dominoes and draughts, card games like Beggar My Neighbour and social games like Bingo have always been popular activities among the residents at Coate Water Care’s seven residential care homes – and crucially, they are also therapeutic. We have all heard the old adage ‘an active mind is a healthy mind’, a dictum that it is particularly important for people facing the debilitating effects of dementia.

Now brand new research shows that elderly people can stave off Alzheimer's disease by playing video games that are popular with children. Those that involve physical exercise - such as Nintendo Wii and Xbox Kin – are particularly effective in boosting the brain as we get older, say scientists.

Researchers found that playing video games produced more benefit than regular exercise such as going for walks. They say combining coordination and physical effort improves mental function.

Psychologist Joseph Firth from Manchester University, says: “Recently there has been much interest in using active video games in treating conditions like dementia, and to promote healthy ageing. Physical activity stimulates the body but studies have shown when you combine it with something that is mentally demanding - which active video games are - the brain is boosted to a larger degree than would be expected.”

Mr Firth admits it can still be difficult to get the elderly to play active video games because they are unfamiliar with them, although work is going on to introduce them to care homes. But that will definitely change in the future.

“With an ageing population these games could be of great benefit 10 and 20 years down the line,” he says. “Today's elderly are unfamiliar with them but that will not be the case further down the line. Getting younger people today to carry on using them as they get older could be a valuable tool in the fight against dementia in the future.”

“Every Coate Water Care home has a dedicated Activities Organiser,” says Jamie Smith, Projects and Development Director at the family-owned care provider. “We take time to find out what each individual resident enjoys and try to incorporate their favourite hobbies into their daily routines.” 

“Playing games with other residents and staff has always been a part of that philosophy, as people suffering from dementia can gradually withdraw from social activities if they aren’t supported in the right way. Games for people with Alzheimer’s can be low-tech, high-tech, or anything in between. Every care home in the world probably has a regular Bingo game – and that’s about as low tech as you can get – yet Bingo has been shown to have positive effects when played by Alzheimer’s and other dementia patients.” 

“As the father of two young children, I am used to playing video games and Wii at home, so I know how engaging and fun they can be. As long as we use them in a controlled way, and take into account people’s physical capabilities I am sure they can provide a positive alternative to more traditional games in care homes.”

“At Coate Water Care we already have professional specialists visiting us to hold armchair exercise and stretching sessions and music therapy for residents, so there’s absolutely no reason why people cannot also play Xbox and Wii games. Anything that helps stimulate people’s senses while providing gentle exercise is a winning combination.”

Please contact our Welcome Team on 01793 821200 to discuss Coate Water Care’s range of care services or to arrange a visit to any of our seven care homes.