Could Pokemon Go Help People With Memory Loss?

The augmented reality game Pokemon Go is a sensation among people of all ages. Played on a mobile device, the game allows players to walk and locate Pokemon (or "pocket monsters") in the area around them. 

Because of its simplicity, Pokemon Go is possible even for players with reduced cognition. But can Pokemon Go be more than a pastime or game -- could it help Alzheimer's and other memory care patients improve their health and cognitive function in any way?

Benefits of Pokemon Go for Memory Care Patients

For people with memory loss and dementia, playing games can be beneficial. One study has shown that the cognitive stimulation of a game as low tech as Bingo can help Alzheimer's patients perform better on simple recognition tasks. 

Plus, Pokemon -- like Bingo -- is a fairly simple, low-skill game. The task of tapping a Pokemon on the screen and then rolling a ball to "capture" it is simple for people with varied abilities to manage. It does not require learned muscle movements or particular skill. Patients with mild to moderate dementia will likely be able to manage this aspect of game play.

Pokemon Go also encourages patients to engage in low-level physical activity, as a major part of the game involves walking to locate Pokemon. The Alzheimer's Association encourages physical activity for its part in increasing blood flow and decreasing physical issues like high blood pressure and diabetes. 

Potential Issues with Pokemon Go

Despite its benefits in increasing cognitive function and physical well-being, there are a few reasons why playing Pokemon Go might be more difficult for memory care patients.

  • The game requires a mobile device and a cellular data plan. While players could remain close to an area that offers WiFi, the game is easiest to play when you can move freely. This is an added expense for memory care facilities or families of patients.
  • Patients will need supervision on their walks. They may not have the cognitive ability to find their own way back to their starting point, even if they don't go on longer walks.
  • More advanced patients may lack the cognitive skills to understand and play the game. Although the physical skills required to play are basic, players may need to understand some of the rules involved with catching, transferring and evolving Pokemon. However, these steps are not required to enjoy the capturing part of the game.

Memory care facilities seek many ways to encourage patients to be active. Pokemon Go may be another method for getting people active and more alert despite their dementia and memory issues.