Call for seniors to take up gaming for digital literacy

Older Australians are the fastest growing segment of video gamers, according to a new report, whose author is calling for more seniors to take up gaming in preparation for the knowledge economy.

Older Australians are the fastest growing segment new to playing computer games as well as the fastest growing cohort of players, according to the latest industry report on the state of the nation’s video gaming activity.

Increased uptake aside, the report’s lead author is calling for those seniors not playing to take it up to improve their digital literacy in preparation for the knowledge economy.

The Digital Australia Report 2016 (DA16), which is the sixth industry report commissioned by peak body Interactive Games and Entertainment Association looking at demographics, behaviours, attitudes and emerging trends around video and digital games in Australia, was launched in Sydney on Tuesday.

The findings, which are based on a survey of 1,274 Australian households comprising 3,398 individuals including around 1,000 over the age of 50, show that gaming is on the rise and for reasons other than entertainment, such as for positive health and ageing. See related story here.

The research found that 68 per cent of Australians play video games including 49 per cent of over-50s, which is the fastest growing segment of new players, and 39 per cent of over-65s.

Jeff Brand
Dr Jeff Brand

Breaking the older cohorts down further, video games are enjoyed by:

  • 51 per cent of 55-64 year-olds
  • 41 per cent 65-74 year-olds
  • 35 per cent of 75-84 year-olds
  • 17 per cent 85-94 year-olds

Most players are aged 18 – 64 (71 per cent) followed by children aged 1 – 17 (22 per cent), but the 65-94 cohort, who make up 7 per cent of players, are the fastest growing segment, according to the report.

Over 50s make up 23 per cent of the total playing population.

Bond University professor and lead author of the report Dr Jeff Brand said there was tremendous growth in game playing across the entire population but particularly among older Australians.

“When we did the study two years ago, the proportion of people over 50 who played was about 40 per cent. It is now almost 50 per cent. That is a fairly substantial growth,” Dr Brand told Technology Review.

“You can attribute that mostly to tablet computers and larger phones. There’s a high variety of content now, literally tens of thousands of games and there is something for everyone.”

From DA16 video series
From DA16 video series

While he called the increase in gaming among the older cohorts astounding, he said people particularly later in life should be encouraged to play to improve their literacy for all digital applications including assistive technology.

“We need to have older adults in Australia playing video games. It will help them with the core literacy necessary for the knowledge economy. If you look at what people are able to do who have grown up with media, it is amazing,” he said.

“I want to encourage older Australians to play because it is really important if as the Intergenerational Report says, we are going to have to work longer because we are living longer. We are probably going to be working in knowledge jobs. Let’s get people playing.”

Rise of the older gamer to continue

According to DA16, it is likely that the rise of the senior gamer will continue as the average age of all players in Australia, which today is 33, is predicted to keep growing.

The median age of the population has increased by over two years over the past decade while the average age of those playing video games has increased by nine years because ever older members of the population have access to and play games, the report found.

“As games are increasingly used for health and education, we predict the proportion of older Australians who play will grow significantly… On the basis of 10 years of reports, we predict adults aged 75 and over will grow to present 10 per cent of all video game players by 2018,” the report found.

Fast facts

  • 98 per cent of homes with children have computer games
  • 65 per cent of game households have three or more game devices
  • 38 per cent choose not to download games due to data limits.
  • 68 per cent of Australians play video games
  • 47 per cent of video game players are female
  • 33 years old is the average age of video game players
  • 78 per cent of players are aged 18 years or older
  • 39 per cent of those aged 65 and over play video games
  • 89 per cent say video games can improve thinking skills
  • 79 per cent say video games can improve coordination and dexterity
  • 76 per cent say video games increase mental stimulation
  • 61 per cent say video games could fight dementia
  • To keep the mind active is the main reason older adults play
  • To have fun is the primary reason PC and console players play
  • To pass time is the main reason mobile players play

Download a copy of the report here and see the accompanying video series here.

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Tags: bond university, da16, digital-literacy, jeff-brand, news-tr-1, video-games,

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