Estimated read time: 3-4 minutes
Certain video games are flying off the shelves, and they have nothing to do with shooting bad guys or blowing things up. And, people who never thought they would like video games are joining in.
Sixty-eight year old Michael McCarty wouldn't consider himself a gamer, per se.
"No, not at all. In fact, I thought video games, to be honest with you, were a waste of time," he said.
That's until the Eddie P. Mayne Senior Center in Kearns bought a Nintendo Wii for Christmas. Now, McCarty plays the bowling game as much as he can, and, to him, it's like a mental work-out.
"I feel more mentally coordinated." I asked, "So you can actually feel it after playing the game?" He replied, "I can, very much so."Nintendo has other games designed to stimulate the brain, but center Manager John Bennett says he got the game system specifically for Wii Sports because of the research he's seen related to the positive effects the game has on the brain. He says the seniors were hesitant to play at first.
"As they get better at it and they actually start hitting pins and picking up their spares, you can tell that they're a lot more animated when they finish than when they started," he said.
Bennett will go to other senior centers in Salt Lake County that don't have a Wii to show them how cool he thinks the games are.
"I think that, ultimately, probably all of my colleagues will have these in their senior centers around Salt Lake County," he said.
But it's not just the Wii that's catching on with an older audience. Retailers say more seniors are buying a game called "Brain Age" for Nintendo DS as well.
Best Buy Gaming Specialist John Davila said, "Occasionally, we'll get a 70-year-old guy picking up a DS for his wife, and a few games, and he already has one, so we let them know how to link them up."
A recent SharpBrains study says nearly $225 million worth of brain fitness software sold in 2007, compared to $100 million worth in 2005. Davila says there are similar games for the PC, if you don't want to go out and buy a Wii or DS.
"There's ‘Brain Games,' ‘More Brain Games,' ‘Brain Games 3,' and then they have two other spin-offs that are just solitaire and chess," he said.
Davila says these brain games activate parts of the cerebral cortex, and some researchers say these games can stave off effects of dementia or Alzheimer's disease. But, other researchers say no one brain fitness program will work for everyone.