European trials of an interactive game platform, resembling a vintage video game table, specifically designed for the elderly have completed their first phase.

The new video game table looks like a small dining table with an embedded flat panel display, around which players sit and play a series of games with one another.

The suite of games and the prototype game table have been successfully trialled at centres in Spain, Norway and the UK.

The European Union funded ElderGames project, based in Spain, has developed video games designed to be fun to play and enable older people improve their cognitive, functional and social skills.

The project was set up three years ago under the European Union’s Information Society and Technology’s (IST) sixth framework research programme.

As part of the project, the ElderGames team identified and developed games that older people would find interesting, would help maintain socialisation and use important cognitive skills.

They created a suite of 20 games for senior citizens and caregivers and developed software that tracks the progress each player over time. The aim is to provide caregivers with early warning of cognitive changes.

According to Malena Fabregat, ElderGames coordinator, the trials show that the system benefits older people in a variety of ways, particularly in promoting active, healthy ageing.

She said: “There are many studies showing that play and leisure activities correlate to life satisfaction, this is one area where ElderGames has proven itself.”

Fabregat said caregivers and doctors rated the ability of the system to warn them when an elderly person was showing cognitive deterioration.

She added: “The experts were able to get high-quality individual information from these group activities, which multiplied their ability to monitor and assess the people they were responsible for.”

Amparo Ruiz, an occupational therapist in Galicia, Spain who helped supervise some of the trials said: “The elderly people like it when they play and feel integrated into the new technologies.

“It’s also very important that I can get information about their attention, memory and other functions while they are playing, and then choose games that emphasis the areas where they have problems.”

Commercial games companies in Europe, North America and India are now said to be showing an interest in the system.

Fabregat added: “We’ve had some very good reactions to the prototype, we’ll have to see what happens next.”