Games going gray: A longitudinal study on the adoption and use of technology by older adults in assisted and independent living communities

Ruth Shillair, Hsin-Yi Sandy Tsai and Shelia Cotten


A frequently overlooked population that can benefit from computer-mediated games is older adults. They form an increasing percentage of the world’s population. By 2030, it is projected that adults over the age of 65 will comprise over 19% of the population of the United States (Administration on Aging, 2013). Yet, this age group is rarely included in the discussion about the potential advantages and uses of games. Games can not only provide an engaging pastime for older adults, but they can also demonstrate to this community a reason to personally use technology. A key to adopting technology, especially for the older adult, is seeing the personal advantages that can be gained from using it (Eggermont, Vandebosch, & Steyaert, 2006). Games can be personally entertaining and help participants to feel comfortable using computing devices. They can also be a method for connecting individuals to others (Jung et al, 2009). Using social games could help older adults who feel isolated from family regain a sense of connectedness. The use of social games allows for continued interaction with remote family and friends (Jung et al, 2009).

The purpose of this study is to examine the occurrence and frequency of game playing among a sample of older adults in assisted and independent living communities. We also examine whether game playing is associated with quality of life outcomes. Participants were part of a larger randomized controlled trial that brought technological access and training to older adults in 19 different assisted and independent living communities. The overall purpose of the larger study was to determine whether using information and communication technologies could enhance social capital and quality of life among older adults in these communities. For this study, we utilize the subsample of participants who received technology training and who remained in the study until the end of the study (n=65). Participants were surveyed at five time points: pretest, posttest, and at 3, 6, and 12 month intervals. Quality of life outcomes examined included geriatric depression, life satisfaction, loneliness, mattering, and other quality of life measures.