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Digital gameplay by older adults associated with positive outcomes for motor skills, cognitive skills, and motivation

Wang Y, Hou H, Tsai C. A systematic literature review of the impacts of digital games designed for older adults Educational Gerontology. 2019; 46(1): 1-7.

Review question

      What are the impacts of digital games designed for older adults?


      Aging is associated with cognitive and physical declines. As populations age worldwide, investigating ways to promote the health and well-being of the aging population is becoming increasingly important.

      As such, research is increasingly being conducted to explore the effectiveness of technologies like digital games to engage older adults, with the goal of improving their health, education, and well-being.

      The aim of this systematic review was to analyze the potential impact and outcomes of gaming for users aged 65 years and over.

How the review was done

      Review authors conducted a search the Web of Science database for eligible studies published between 2013 and 2018.

      Key search terms included words like “older adults,” “the elderly,” “video game,” “mobile game,” “computer game,” and “exergames.”

      A total of 641 articles were retrieved from the initial search, of which 67 were included in this review.

      This work was financially supported by the Ministry of Science and Technology, Taiwan, as well as the Institute for Research Excellence in Learning Sciences of the National Taiwan Normal University. No conflict of interests was declared.

What the researchers found

      When review authors examined the effects of digital gameplay on older adults, the findings revealed a positive impact on a range of motor skills, cognitive skills, and soft skills (personal attributes enabling someone to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people).

      Several studies found that video games impacted older adults in terms of emotion, motivation, knowledge acquisition, and other cognitive outcomes.

      The review found that the way playing digital games impacted older adults was different from younger or general participants. Older adults tended to glean greater outcomes in terms of their motor, perceptual, and cognitive skills as these functions are more applicable to their daily needs. Younger players, on the other hand, tend to see impacts more in terms of knowledge acquisition and content understanding.

      Included studies also highlighted the utility of digital games designed to address specific physiological needs of older adults, such as fall prevention and balance improvement.

      Through playing digital games designed specifically for them, studies found that older adults were able to be self-motivated to train their motor skills and muscle functions by physically shaking or moving according to the instructions of the games. Some games included in the review even trained older adults’ driving skills and taught older adults about safe medication use.


      Overall, digital gameplay was found to have a positive impact on older adults, improving a range of motor skills and cognitive skills, as well as having positive affective and motivational outcomes.

      The most frequent goals of digital games for older adults included the prevention and training of certain skills, and the treatment and improvement of specific conditions.

Related Topics


Systematic review
A comprehensive evaluation of the available research evidence on a particular topic.

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