Perhaps one of the greatest struggles older people face today is a lack of human connection; whether it’s due to living far apart from family members, or even a lack of close family and friends at all, loneliness among our older generation is a growing problem world-wide. While it’s no surprise that the virtual worlds of gaming have become places where gamers can build and maintain real-world relationships, these worlds can also provide a vital connection between older and younger family members. In gaming we believe in the power of play to bring people together.
“Games are a source of joy, inspiration, and social connection,” says Head of Xbox Phil Spencer. “They have the power to bring us together, create empathy, and strengthen our social fabric.”
With Xbox: Beyond Generations, our aim is to highlight the relationship-building potential of modern games, and to encourage younger people to start gaming with older family members.
For older people, loneliness has become a serious problem — one that has a knock-on effect on their physical health. According to Age UK, almost 2 million older people in the UK are expecting to feel lonely this holiday. And it is a global issue; a sense of isolation is something many older people all over the world face daily.
Xbox: Beyond Generations aims to bridge that generational divide in families. The initiative launches with a short documentary film, “Howard & Dhillon’s Story,” which follows the story of a real family on their journey towards re-connecting with each other via gaming. Grandfather Howard and his grandson Dhillon, who live nearly three hours’ driving distance apart, used to have a close relationship when both were younger. But as Howard became less physically able to do activities with Dhillon, they drifted apart.
“My grandad, with his knee injury, can’t run around with us in the garden anymore. We stopped doing the things that kept us really close,” says Dhillon.
Over the course of four weeks, we witness the rekindling of the relationship they once had. Howard and Dhillon’s ability to go on virtual road trips in Forza or sail on virtual ships together in Sea of Thieves—shared activities that are no longer possible for them to do in real life—becomes the catalyst for opening up to each other about their lives and forming a deeper bond, something hard to replicate via regular calls.
To help ignite this spark of connection within families, Xbox is partnering with multiple charities around the globe dedicated to supporting the needs of older people. In the UK, Xbox will support Age UK, and their work internationally through Age International. Donations are being made to enable our charity partners to carry out vital work for older people and their communities providing emotional, social and practical support.
Everyone can bring about change. There are a number of ways in which you can help play a part. Age UK and Age International are in need of donations to fund their vital work, so if you’re able, please donate today. Or consider becoming an Age UK Digital Buddy – someone who helps older people get familiar with technology and use it to connect with friends, family, and get the support they most need.
“At Age UK and Age International our mission is simple – we support older people who need us the most, especially those who have no one else to turn to,” says Age UK Fundraising Director Laurie Boult. “Technology can really help us all connect, but sometimes the most vulnerable older people need more than that. That’s where we come in. We help provide emotional, social, and practical support to older people in more than 25 countries, with programmes ranging from emergency humanitarian aid, to access income and pensions, healthcare, advocacy and influencing governments to consider the needs of older people.”
Perhaps one of the simplest things many of you can do to make a difference is to see the value and potential in older people, quite literally. This holiday season—a time when many will be booting up a new console- rather than leave an old console to gather dust, consider giving it to an older family member. And maybe challenge them to a game or two. It could be the thing that sparks a whole new chapter in your relationship.