And No, We’re Not Talking Pong: New Survey Captures Attitudes and Habits of Older Gamers

Published on June 19, 2016 in Woonsocket Call

Although the millennial generation grew up being surrounded with interactive technology, spending thousands of hours playing video games, baby boomers are technologically plugged in, too. According to a new survey released in the beginning of June by AARP and the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), 41 million Americans, more than one of every three people over age 50, play video games on a regular basis.

According to Oscar Anderson, AARP Research, “The video game industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the U.S. economy with more than $23 billion in sales last year. Innovation present in this industry affects not only entertainment but also business, engineering, health, and education.”

Older Adults and Technology

The 93 page report, Video Games: Attitudes and Habits of Adults Age 50-Plus, found that three-quarters of gamers age 50-plus play weekly, with four in 10 playing daily. Among gamers age 60 and above, 43 percent play video games every day.

Researchers say that the top reason gamers say they play video games is to have fun (26% say this is an extremely important reason and 52% say it is very important). Maintaining mental sharpness also was cited by the survey respondent as an important reason for playing video games.

The researchers also found that a greater proportion of older gamers compared to younger gamers report playing video games weekly or more often (37% of 50-59 year olds compared to 43% of 60-plus say they play every day).

“With the explosion of dynamic, compelling, and diverse content and the growing popularity of online gaming, video games are now an experience shared across generations of Americans,” said Michael D. Gallagher, president and CEO of ESA, which represents the U.S. video game industry in a statement on June 2, 2016 with the release of the survey findings. “As Gen X turns 50 and Millennials raise tech-centric families, participation will only continue to expand just as games continue to evolve.”

The report prepared by GfK Public Affairs and Corporate Communications, explored the attitudes and habits of people age 50 also examining what how and what older gamers play. Older gamers most commonly play on laptops or computers (59 percent), followed closely by phones or mobile devices (57 percent) to play video games. They prefer video games that mimic traditional forms of play; card/tile games (46 percent) and puzzle/logic games (44 percent) are the most popular among older gamers.

Crossing Generational Lines

“Video games have come a long way since the days of Pong. Today’s online video games give people 50-plus fun ways to stay connected with their family and friends through online gaming communities across a variety of devices,” said Jo Ann Jenkins, CEO of AARP, in her statement. “Video games and apps are truly ageless, offering gamers of all ages—a grandfather as well as his granddaughter—the opportunity to share entertainment and social interactions with one another.”

The study found that Gamers age 50-plus are more likely to be women (40 percent) than men (35 percent). More of the female respondents reported playing games daily (45 percent) than their male counterparts (35 percent). Meanwhile, women (57%) are significantly more likely than men (43%) to say they play more today than they did five years ago.

Additionally, researchers say that card/tile games (46%) and puzzle/logic games (44%), followed distantly by trivia/word/ traditional board video games top the list of respondents’ three favorite types of video games.

In total, 22% of gamers have not made any video game related purchase in the past 6 months. Of the gamers who made purchases, 77% bought for themselves, while 52% bought for others.

Half of older gamers say that learning about new video games and gaming hardware came from sources other than internet websites, with one in six reporting their children and grandchildren influence their choice of games.

With the exception of those who are trained in their jobs, most people 50+ have learned most of that they know about computing from their children and their grandchildren,” said AARP Rhode Island State Director Kathleen Connell. “So, it should come as no surprise that plenty of people 50 and over have been exposed to, if not addicted to video games.

Promoting Brain Health and Other Bennies

“Recently, I observed a member playing the online Scrabble game ‘Words With Friends’ on her tablet while waiting for a meeting to start,” Connell added. “She was connected with a grandchild and loving it.

“We know that certain video games promote brain health, which is something we all are hoping to strengthen. And the so-called ‘passive-learning games’ are a way to connect people with useful information.  Just last month, AARP launched the Pop Up! Family Caregiver Game, which challenged players to learn more about valuable resources for family caregivers. Throughout June, you could download the free app and play daily with a chance to win prizes. It was a refreshing way to engage people, provide some fun and spread the word about our organization’s ongoing efforts to support caregivers.”

Researchers are telling us that playing video games can increases social interaction, enhance your mood and improves physical health, social and cognitive functioning. Some games can even improve hand-eye coordination.

AARP’s Video Game study findings indicate that older persons are becoming comfortable with newly emerging technologies. A growing number of baby boomers and seniors are now easily communicating with family and friends on Facebook and other social media, playing video games, streaming movies or even reading digital E-books.

Most important research studies are now looking at gaming and brain functioning are are finding that regularly playing video and internet games just might positively impact your physical and cognitive health and well-being.

As to methodology of AARP’s Video Game study, the online survey took place between March 9 through March 17, 2016, with a nationally representative sample of 2,964 adults age 50 and older (gamers, n=1510; non-gamers, n=1454). For additional details about this newly released report, contact G. Oscar Anderson of AARP Research at GAnderson@aarp.org.

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