Minecraft is an incredibly popular game — with millions of players — that has only continued to grow since it first released over 10 years ago. Minecraft is widely, but wrongly, known as a "kids' game". This may dissuade older players from jumping in, but it shouldn’t, because Minecraft can be a fun, creative, relaxing, and prosocial game for people of all all ages. Looking more closely at the unique sandbox game reveals that Minecraft is much more than a simple game for kids.
Could Minecraft even help out lonely older adults, including those struggling with dementia?
Unlike many other video games, Minecraft offers endless possibilities when it comes to how you play, because it’s a sandbox game. Sandbox games don't have specific goals, allowing the player to forge their own path as they explore and create.
You could make your dream house (or, as an older adult, maybe even rebuild your childhood home!), fight against other players, grind for the best gear, build many complex redstone circuits, or even just socialize with the wholesome community. You could, as one older Minecraft player does, create intricate crochet patterns in the game.
Minecraft is like a giant puzzle waiting to be explored. Because it is so creative, the wonderful world of Minecraft could be an amazing activity for elders with dementia to explore, as they relax in single player mode, socialize with their peers, or build shared memories with their grandkids.
What else do you need to know about how this sandbox game could enrich life for older folks?
What Activities Typically Help People with Dementia? How Does Minecraft Fit In?
Dementia can affect some older people as they age — a third of people who are 85 and older develop some type of dementia. Dementia can affect someone’s memory, reasoning, and thinking skills. It usually starts out with mild, easily-missed, symptoms, slowly progressing to the point where the person is no longer able to live an independent life.
Certain activities have been shown to help people with dementia improve their quality of life by keeping their minds busy and making it possible for them to socialize with their friends and family members in meaningful ways.
Some of the activities that can benefit people who have been diagnosed with dementia, and which are often incorporated into therapeutic plans, include:
- Solving puzzles — like jigsaw puzzles — is often mentioned as a great activity for people with dementia because puzzles stimulate the mind. Puzzles require problem-solving skills and boost memory as they call on puzzlers to think about their next move. Puzzling keeps your brain busy, which is incredibly important for dementia patients. Though jigsaw puzzles are very popular, other puzzles like crossword puzzles can be just as great.
- Creative activities, such as drawing and painting. Meaningful artistic activities can keep your brain active and improve your mental health. This includes activities like drawing, music, fixing stuff, and more.
- Socializing with family and friends is especially important to aging people, who tend to get lonelier as they get older. Often feeling isolated, these seniors will greatly benefit from doing activities together with their friends and family.
- Consistent routines can help those with dementia find certainty in every day, which can reduce stress and help make their lives better.
- As people age, their hand eye-coordination skills will also slowly start to get worse and worse. A lot of seniors may struggle with hand eye-coordination, making activities that boost this skill a great choice.
- Having fun and doing the things you love can help prevent depression and enhance your quality of life.
Research has shown that all of these core activities can allow people with dementia live a better life, but did you know that every single one of them can be found in the game Minecraft, too?
How Minecraft Can Be Beneficial to People with Dementia
Minecraft is a fun way to incorporate many different activities into one vast world. If you are looking to get an older family member or friend into Minecraft or are perhaps interested in it yourself, you may be wondering what exactly you can do in this intriguing game. These are only some of the ways older folks with dementia could play Minecraft as a way to have fun and get their brain going. Remember the possibilities are endless!
1. Creativity Through Building
Building in Minecraft is often really relaxing and peaceful to older players. In Minecraft, you can transform the world to be anything you want, choosing from a spectacular variety of blocks to create houses, castles, (space)ships, gardens, factories, or anything else you fancy. Coming up with your own builds and designs is a extremely creative process that keeps the mind sharp.
Unlike the often competitive PvP (Player versus Player) parts of Minecraft, building is much more therapeutic. Even if you don't make a masterpiece, the process will be a fun one. After you're done, you can proudly look at the build and know that you created it.
2. Mind-boggling Redstone Creations
Redstone is probably the best thing to mess around with if you're interested in puzzles. In Minecraft, redstone is like electricity with almost limitless possibilities for creations. To get started, you may want to look up simple tutorials only to get lost into the very interesting world of redstone. Redstone can be a lot of fun to tinker around with and is sure to get the cogs in your brain going.
You can create pretty much anything in Minecraft with redstone components. An intricate and secure vault door to store all your diamonds? Yep! Automatic farms to bring you resources while you aren't actively playing? Yes! A working computer in which you can play games like Tetris and even Minecraft itself? Yep, that too can be created with redstone.
3. Socializing with Family and Friends
Minecraft can be a very social game where you'll be able to play together with your family and friends. Elderly people are especially prone to becoming lonely and isolated. Especially now, because older folks are especially vulnerable to COVID-19, they may stay inside all day, rarely seeing friends and family. This is why exploring Minecraft together with their family and friends can be a great activity for older people. That way, the whole family can have fun together!
Seniors may want to play fun minigames with their family or maybe socialize and make new friends on various survival servers. Older people could even start their own private SMP (Survival Multiplayer) server with only their friends. This may sound more appealing than playing on servers which often are dominated by younger folks.
4. Combat-Based Games To Improve Hand-Eye Coordination
Many popular Minecraft servers include various captivating minigames that can help with your hand-eye coordination skills. Since a lot of older people can struggle with hand-eye coordination, Minecraft could be a great and enjoyable way to improve.
Combat-based minigames can often get competitive and quite nasty in the chat, which is not exactly the type of enviroment that makes you feel happy. You may instead want to play less competitive minigames with just your friends and family. Minecraft Realms, a paid Minecraft feature where you can invite only your friends, for instance, offers a lot of enjoyable minigames. These can improve your hand-eye coordination without worrying about 10 year olds swearing at you.
5. A Decent Substitute for Real Life Activities
As people get older, they might find themselves unable to do the things they used to love before because of mobility issues or other physical limitations, including being vulnerable to COVID or other viral diseases. Maybe you used to love riding horses when you were younger or took pride in gardening, or you miss long daily walks. Older adults can take joy in simulating the activities they loved doing when they were younger.
Check in on your Minecraft world, feed your pets, go for a nice boat ride, or have chats (or fights!) with your ingame neighbors! With a little imagination, it's just like real life.
6. Minecraft Is Fun
Some people may view Minecraft as a waste of time, but spending time on something that you love and enjoy is important too. When you take the time to relax and have fun, you'll have a much happier life. Minecraft can be fun for everyone, no matter who they are or how old they are.
Many older folks are digitally literate but some may not know how to play first-person games and it may take them a while to learn the controls. In this situation, it's great for them to get help from their family and it may take them a while to learn. Even so, grandparents can bond with their grandkids through learning the game.
At the end of the day, Minecraft is a game for anyone. Whether you're eight years old or 70, you're sure to enjoy playing Minecraft in your own way.
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