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Video games may improve seniors' mobility

December 3, 2013

Technology has played an increasingly important role in healthy aging, especially when it comes to certain video games. While many of these benefits have to do with cognitive function, new research suggests that these same advantages might have a positive effect on seniors' mobility. Scientists from the Center for Research on Health and Aging at the University of Illinois at Chicago discovered that seniors who played brain training computer games also experienced better gait and balance.

The study, published in The Journals of Gerontology: Series B, focused on the performance of a group of more than 50 men and women with an average age of 83. Half of the group was instructed to participate in a brain training program for 10 weeks, while the other half did nothing new. Although the games were designed to improve seniors' spatial and visual memory, it also had an impact on their walking abilities. Experts speculate this is because walking requires more concentration later in life.

"For instance, when walking down a busy street visuospatial processing is required to identify cracks or tripping hazards in the sidewalk, inhibition is required to tune out the distraction of children running and throwing a ball down the block and attention is required while watching traffic and responding to signals," study leader Renae L. Smith-Ray told Reuters. 

The results could have an impact on healthy senior living, especially given the rate of falls among the older population. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one-third of adults 65 and older experience a fall each year.