Video games and the elderly

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Jeffrey H. Goldstein
Lara Cajko
Mark Oosterbroek
Moniek Michielsen
Oscar Van Houten
Femke Salverda
Cite this article:  Goldstein, J., Cajko, L., Oosterbroek, M., Michielsen, M., Van Houten, O., & Salverda, F. (1997). Video games and the elderly. Social Behavior and Personality: An international journal, 25(4), 345-352.


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We studied the effects of playing video games (Super Tetris) on the reaction time, cognitive/perceptual adaptability, and emotional well-being of 22 non-institutionalized elderly people aged 69 to 90. Volunteers in an elderly community in the Netherlands were randomly assigned to a videogame-playing experimental group or a non-playing control group. The televisions of the 10 videogame players were provided with Nintendo SuperNes systems. Participants played Super Tetris 5 hours a week for 5 weeks, and maintained a log of their play. Before and after this play period, measures of reaction time (Sternberg Test), cognitive/perceptual adaptability (Stroop Color Word Test), and emotional well-being (self-report questionnaire) were administered. Playing video games was related to a significant improvement in the Sternberg reaction time task, and to a relative increase in self-reported well-being. On the Stroop Color Word Test, both the experimental and control groups improved significantly, but the difference between groups was not statistically significant. The videogame-playing group had faster reaction times and felt a more positive sense of well-being compared to their nonplaying counterparts. Consistent with previous research on video games and the elderly, the present study finds the strongest effects on measures of reaction time, and the weakest effects on cognitive performance measures. Explanations and alternative interpretations of these findings are discussed.
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