Not just children’s toys: toy companies are targeting more products for the elderly

NEW YORK (AP) — Game makers are tweaking the original classics or coming up with new games that embrace an audience that’s been around for a while: people over 65.

The products are marketed as a way for older people to hone their mental skills as well as relieve loneliness by helping them connect with other family members and friends, although some experts have raised doubts about toy makers’ claims.

Toymaker Hasbro has signed a licensing agreement with Ageless Innovation — which designs toys with seniors in mind — to release new versions of Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit and Life with a “Generations” logo that introduces larger fonts on tiles and larger game pieces.

The new Generations editions of Life and Trivial Pursuit have also expanded their content to meet the needs of young people and seniors alike. For example, the answer to a question in Trivial Pursuit about fitness could be Jack LaLanne or Zumba, depending on the age of the player. The new offerings hit stores in August just in time for the holiday season.

Educational Insights, which focuses on educational toys for preschoolers, is incorporating images of seniors into its marketing after noticing last year that its wonder toys like Kanoodle and BrainBolt were resonating with older customers in online reviews. Next year, it will unveil a new development called BrainBolt Boost that has larger, simpler buttons.

An app-connected robotic dog called Dog-E from WowWee that was originally marketed to kids and families is finding buzz with more than 65 people. So, next year, the dog — which can tell the player when he’s hungry, when he likes him or when he wants to play — will see some new twists, including a voice command feature as well as memory games on the app, according to Andrew Yanovsky, head of the division. Marketing at WowWee.

“We’re still thinking about the issues that seniors face,” said Ted Fisher, co-founder and CEO of Ageless Innovation, a spin-off of a toy company Hasbro created in 2015 for seniors. “We find that having fun playing can have a beneficial effect.”

The strategies come as the pandemic changes purchasing habits. Long before the pandemic, Many adults have turned to gaming From Legos to collectible items to tap into their inner childhood for comfort.

But the pandemic has not only accelerated and strengthened this trend, it has also opened the door for older people who were feeling isolated when they were in lockdown. Many toy companies have found them drawn to plush animals and robotic pets as companions.

Market research firm Circana reports that toy sales are increasingly geared toward adult buyers. Nearly 5% of all toy sales in the United States are to males aged 35 or older, an increase of 13% since last year. About 4% of all toy sales in the United States are to females aged 35 or older, up 9% from last year.

While Circana did not explore sales data for the over-65 group, it estimated that those who identified as grandparents and bought a game for their grandchildren in its surveys have significant spending power, accounting for a 19% share, or $7.8 billion, of total toy sales In the 12 months ending September. Grandparents spent an average of 7% more per toy than the total market during the fourth quarter of 2022, the highest amount spent across all buyer segments. This means that game makers have an audience interested in arcade games.

The US toy industry itself was in need of a jolt after a weak year, particularly the lackluster 2022 holiday season. The problem has persisted so far this year, with US toy sales falling 8% in the January-August period, based on the latest data. Circana Retail Tracking Service.

Ben Swartz, 92, who lives with his wife of 85 years in a retirement community in Des Moines, Iowa, and who ran a chain of 14 toy stores in the 1970s, has noticed some new offerings from the toy industry, and applauds the moves.

Swartz plays games five days a week, including bridge and poker with his friends, and said it’s important to keep his mind flexible, otherwise “I’ll be afraid my mind will start to go a little dull.”

However, while some scholars welcome toy makers paying attention to older consumers, they also warn of the limitations of these products.

Neil Charness, a professor of psychology and one of the leading experts in the field of aging and cognition, collaborated with Walter Pott, a professor of psychology, both at Florida State University, to come to a conclusion. Testing the theory Brain games like crosswords help maintain cognitive function, and I’ve found that people improve in those specific skills if they play over and over again. But they said that does not translate into the cognitive skills needed for activities of daily living, such as job performance or maintaining independent living.

They also said there is limited evidence so far that playing games can significantly reduce feelings of loneliness.

“It’s an ageist idea that everything we design for older people needs to serve some sort of cognitive purpose rather than just designing games for them to enjoy,” Bott said. “And I hope these companies do that: design games for entertainment and just for the sake of gaming, and not expect that they will improve X, Y, and Z.”


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