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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Games to Keep You Young

Are video games the new fountain of youth?

Stress Relief and Social Time

TerryAnn Holzgrafe, 45, a teacher of disabled students in Rio Rico, Ariz., plays the spelling game Bookworm Adventures both for fun and as a teaching tool in her classroom. She also formed a Bookworm Adventures’ ladies club, a group of 40-something women who gather at a local coffeehouse to discuss game strategies.

“These games have the unusual ability to de-stress as well as engage one’s brain,” she says. “I play them to relax at various points during the day, and I play them very late at night when I’m having trouble sleeping.”

There’s a real value at the emotional level, says Kornel, who enjoys Guitar Hero. “Reducing stress can help with clarity of thought,” he says.

Michael Caputo, 47, owner of an advertising agency in the North Quabbin Region of Massachusetts, gets a kick out of playing Rock Band with his kids and appreciates the ribbing that goes along with the intergenerational entertainment. “Rock Band has music I like and music they like. They deal with me singing ‘Green Grass’ and ‘High Times’ and I deal with them singing ‘Dani California,’” he says.

He also enjoys playing HALO, a best-selling sci-fi game on Xbox, into the wee hours of the morning and admits he is one of the older players. Six years ago, he started playing HALO2 with a group of guys he knew from church and their sons.

Although Caputo is a fan of socializing through games, he says he isn’t aware of any health benefits. “I suppose you would equate it with any anticipated fun event that you look forward to and have positive memories immediately following,” he says.

Slowing the Aging Process

Retirement homes across the country have added Wii nights with tennis, bowling, and other sports to their rotation of activities. The Atlantic Rehabilitation Institute in New Jersey is currently using Wii games to help stroke and other rehab patients with recovering motor function.

What about toying with games to prevent memory loss? Unfortunately, playing games can’t ward off disease like Alzheimer’s or dementia, Kornel says, but you may be able to slow the progression of the symptoms to some extent.

“Older people have to feel like what they are doing is doing something,” McLaughlin says. “They might want to stay away from video games because they would be a waste of time. But if it has a purpose, then it might be more worthwhile.”

So even though the verdict is out on whether video games are the new fountain of youth, there’s nothing stopping you from joining in the fun -- and hey, you might even feel rejuvenated!

Reviewed on September 03, 2009

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