Modern computers have been an essential cog within our society for quite some time now in both the professional and personal levels. People practically need computers for running businesses, applying for jobs, staying in contact with family, keeping track of important information, and keeping up-to-date about the important happenings in the world. The result is that those in modern society have become familiar with computers and what they are capable of. This includes the elderly.
The elderly (or many of those living in a nursing home) often have a lot more needs that aren’t easily handled economically. These can range from something as simple as loneliness to something as complex as dementia, and since the baby boomer generation is reaching retirement age in America, these problems are going to be more widespread than ever before. Luckily, technology is more accessible and more well understood now than ever before, making games a potentially perfect solution to many of those problems.
The Wii, and many of the sports games that came with it, were huge successes at nursing homes because it gave people the chance to get up and have fun without being too strenuous for most residents to handle. For the sake of simplicity, imaging trying to help reduce loneliness in the elderly with a video game. Board games and tabletop RPG’s, MMO’s, and online co-op games have all helped to bring people together, build a community, and make friends, so applying the same idea for the purpose of helping the elderly is more than reasonable.
Computers, some TV’s, smartphones, and other technologies can be used for this same effect. As an example, you could create a game for smartphones and tablets where multiple people complete quests as individuals to help build a community. While the quests may be individual, you could make it so that multiple people all existed in the same city and in order to help build it, it requires coordination from multiple people to complete different tasks and no one person could do enough to help to community (either through limited player abilities or timed-tasks where performing one would run out the timer on the other). If game remains simple enough and can be easily understood, it could help deal with loneliness through direct communication, giving players a sense of worth, and making them feel like part of a team.
The best part is, smartphones are already widely owned and there are many tools available to develop for them. Now I also recognize that there are potential issues with this such as how to target the elderly specifically, would the interactions between players be enough, and how to manage coordination without forcing complexity into the game among many others. But this is just one idea that could be fleshed out and there are many other ways of attempting to solve the problem of loneliness in elders. The blogs below here mention a couple of other solutions, but the point of this is to show that there is a lot of potential and need for gaming within the elderly, or even the disabled community.