Can Digital Game Play Improve Older Adults' Cognitive Skills?
Cognitive skills are essential for the performance of basic and instrumental daily living activities such as self-care, medication, and finance management. A decline in cognitive abilities with increasing age thus hinders older adults' ability to remain independent in society and negatively influences their quality of life. Therefore, many studies have investigated ways that can maintain and effectively improve such skills. Digital games have become a favored leisure activity by all age groups and are played for entertainment and stress relief. In this context, the ease with which digital games can be played within the home and their entertaining nature have led researchers to examine their effectiveness in enhancing older adults' cognitive skills. Although the findings indicate cognitive advantages, such as improved reaction times, working memory, and task-switching abilities, many questions require further clarification before claiming that digital game play is an effective cognitive training regime. Therefore, the current review aims to examine the cognitive advantages of digital games for older adults and suggests future research directions. The following topics need to be further explored: the existence of far transfer effects, that is, whether such improvements lead to better performance of daily activities, the long-term maintenance of enhanced skills and the underlying responsible mechanisms, the ecological validity of digital games, and digital games' provision of benefits beyond cognitive simulations. Furthermore, the importance to consider placebo effects, which was suggested by Boot, Blakely, and Simons (2011) and Boot, Simons, Stothart, and Stutts (2013), is emphasized.