Older Gamers Keep Japans Video Arcades Afloat

Japan’s ageing population could be providing a lifeline to amusement arcades.

According to this article in the Mainichi Daily News, cups of tea, leg-warming blankets and spectacles are being used to lure older game-lovers to Japan’s ailing video arcades. Sounds age-friendly to me!

Figures from the All Nippon Amusement Machine Operators’ Union show that the number of video arcades in Japan dropped from 25,044 in fiscal 2004 to 19,213 in fiscal 2009 — due partly to the spread of mobile phone games and a declining birth rate that has eaten away at the number of young arcade-goers.

At the Takenotsuka arcade, 30 people sit in front of game machines. Among them are a husband and wife who were there the day before, a woman with her granddaughter. Most of the visitors are the elderly.

The brightly lit arcade provides hand towels and gloves so the patrons don’t get their hands dirty. It even provides free cups of green tea and  pairs of glasses for older customers.

A woman plays a

Adores provides special services for elderly people at 40 of its outlets. Its Takenotsuka arcade, which operates a service providing 50 bonus medals to people aged 65 or over, has one regular customer aged 87.

The arcades appear to have become a place of social exchange where older people can enjoy conversing with people.

But it’s not only within the walls of arcades that the elderly have latched onto game machines. At one nursing facility, women let out cheers in front of a “rehabilitainment” machine — designed to help improve people’s physical functions as they play.

On one machine the player uses a plastic hammer to whack crocodiles on the head. On another, a player steps on snakes that pop out. There is also a drum game featuring nursery songs.

It is easy for elderly people to suffer fractures or become bedridden after they take a fall, but if their alertness improves, they can quickly grab a handrail or put their foot out. The snake game, which forces people to open their legs and raise their thighs and toes, helps them build the muscles around their shins and waist.