Over 60 percent of Americans over the age 50 are grandparents. But, as the average age of a first-time grandparent in the United States is 48, there are also a number of grandparents under 50, too. So, grandparents are something we feel is important to understand at AARP. We know that grandparents want to increase the connection to their grandkids and want to help get them on the right path in life. But, there are barriers — distance or physical limitations can limit interactions and basic generational differences particularly around technology can also be issues. In their landmark study, Dr. Jennifer Jacobs Henderson, associate professor and department chair, and Dr. Aaron Delwiche, associate professor of the Department of Communication at Trinity University, found that massive multiplayer games like Wizard101 are one way that grandparents are overcoming both barriers.
This past summer when I would run on Saturdays, I tended to pass by a grandfather and his grandson exploring different parts of the trail. Sometimes they’d have a butterfly net, while other times they were looking at the plants along the trail. Basically, these were adventures they were going on together. It turns out that technology and gaming opens up adventures and memories for grandparents and grandkids separated by either distance or physical limitations of the grandparent.
Consider these quotes from grandparents in the study:
- “As a 70 year-old grandparent, this game lets me have a glimpse into the world of my grandchildren without the violence of games like WoW. As a retired teacher, the game lets me try to understand this new world of gaming that has captured the minds of students ….” (This comment was from a 71-year-old woman who plays 16 hours per week.)
- “This game has given my family a way to play together and communicate more often even though we are thousands of miles apart. It has brought us closer together and that means the world to us!” (This comment was made by a 59-year-old woman who plays about one hour per week.)
- “I live many, many miles away from my grandson. This is a way that in real time we can connectdf and have some fun together. I am grateful for this!” (This comment was from a 55-year-old woman who plays about two hours per week.)
The right game environment offers both the connections around activity and adventure but also helps to bridge the digital differences between generations. Next time, we’ll talk about some surprising connections between gaming, caregiving and health. Until then, it would be great to hear your stories — how have you used online games to stay connected with other generations — kids, grandkids or parents?
View the entire Games for the 50+ series:
- Part 5: Games for the 50+: A New Outlet for Mentoring
- Part 4: Games for the 50+: Games Provide Family Caregivers With Time to Recharge
- Part 3: Games for the 50+: Grandparents & Grandchildren Find Adventures, Memories
- Part 2: Games for the 50+: Strengthening Friendships
- Part 1: Games for the 50+: Benefits Include Socialization, Activity
Bob Stephen is AARP’s Vice President for Home and Family. In this role he works on issues such as caregiving, intergenerational families, livable communities and technology across the organization. He connects with family and friends through online gaming.
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