Donna Caparara, Joyce Wilson, Paullette Taylor and Cate Williams were excited to get into the Star Wars theme.
Donna Caparara, Joyce Wilson, Paullette Taylor and Cate Williams were excited to get into the Star Wars theme. Michael Doyle

GALLERY: How seniors battle dementia through video games

AGED-CARE residents on the NSW North Coast have been fighting battles in a galaxy far, far away - and this is just the start.

Twenty-four residents of Feros Care Village at Byron Bay and Kingscliff have been playing video games twice a week, in a research project which is hoped to pro-long a person's battle with early on-set dementia.

University of New England post-graduate student Alex McCord has found the residents, all over the age of 80, significantly improved their ability to switch tasks and maintain visual attention after playing the video game Star Wars: Battlefront, for one month.

The researcher completed the neuropsychological test in the hope it could shed light on a new way senior citizens could actively engage themselves.

"The widely held view is that neural engagement, physical exercise, new learning and cognitive training, when adopted as part of a healthy ageing lifestyle, can help compensate for brain degeneration," Ms McCord said.

"I was keen to test whether gaming could serve as an enjoyable form of cognitive stimulation, and it certainly did.

"My results suggest that the genre of first-person action games, particularly, has the potential to positively influence cognition and executive function.

"Exercising the brain through enjoyable, challenging activity is important, just as we exercise our bodies."

The post-graduate student said all video game sessions lasted for 30 minutes, as that is when fatigue would set in.

The research supports the benefit of cognitive stimulation for aging adults to manage on-set dementia according to Ms McCord, while also allowing seniors to keep their individuality and remaining socially engaged.

""If cognitive exercise can help compensate for the decline in these processes, seniors have another tool to help maintain their quality of life and independence," she said.

"It's great to think that one-day youngsters might have to hand over the console when grandma or grandpa comes to visit.

"There would be added benefits of gaming with younger people as it would likely lift spirits through the intergenerational connection."

Feros Care CEO Jennene Buckley said the positive results of Ms McCord's research has led the organisation to embed gaming into their program.

"We want our residents to live bold, healthy, connected lives, and gaming is helping them to do that," she said.

"It's one way we can assist residents to stay in control of their ageing and to push the boundaries, while retaining some important physical and mental skills."

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