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Video Gaming Just Might Fight Aging
Date:1/23/2010

Experts find physical and mental benefits as people grow old

FRIDAY, Jan. 22 (HealthDay News) -- Slaying orcs, charting military campaigns and gunning down bad guys might not sound like things seniors would be interested in pursuing for fun or exercise.

But they might want to start, some experts on aging say.

Research has found that off-the-shelf video games have the potential to help seniors age more gracefully, keeping their minds sharp and responsive through game play.

"There's a growing body of evidence that suggests playing video games actually can improve older adults' reflexes, processing speed, memory, attention skills and spatial abilities," said Jason Allaire, an associate professor of psychology at North Carolina State University and co-director of its Gains Through Gaming Lab.

With the advent of the Nintendo Wii, there's even the potential that video games could provide seniors with an outlet for physical exercise.

The Wii uses special controllers that require arm and body movements, and a number of games have been developed for the system specifically to provide an exercise program.

One study found that a Wii bowling game boosted the heart rate of players at a senior center in Pensacola, Fla., by about 40 percent. The game required that the players, who were in their 60s, 70s and 80s, hold the controller like a bowling ball and swing it to hit the pins in a virtual bowling alley.

"The Wii is a perfect vehicle because it is so easy," Allaire said. "It's in a lot of senior centers already. Older adults already tend to use it."

The potential of video games to keep minds sharp was highlighted in a 2008 study in which 40 people in their 60s and 70s were asked to play Rise of Nations, a real-time strategy game for computers that can be found in many stores that sell video games.

"We wanted to see whether we could take an off-the-shelf game and see f
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