Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools


You are here: Home / Blog / Therapeutic Role-Playing Games (RPG Therapy) for older adults. & Cohort Considerations

Therapeutic Role-Playing Games (RPG Therapy) for older adults. & Cohort Considerations

by Hawke Robinson published Jun 20, 2015 05:05 PM, last modified Feb 05, 2023 12:22 PM
In the past 10 years I have been receiving increasingly frequent inquiries about using RPGs in therapeutic settings for older adults. Here is a summary of information to help you get started with this population...

Thank you for making contact.
While there is a dearth of research specific to using RPGs to achieve
therapeutic goals for older adults, there is a large amount of
research in the Therapeutic Recreation profession on using
games in geriatric settings, and the long list of benefits from
such activities. Components from those studies are part of what lead me
down the path as a Recreation Therapist to look into RPGs for a wide
range of populations.

There is also a fair amount of research on the use of RPGs for
psychiatric populations, both in-patient and out-patient, for youth and
adults, that could potentially be extrapolated to older populations.

If you haven't already, try our research focus page here:

If you don't see anything listed in those links, use the search engine
in the upper right hand corner, it is a robust full-text search engine
for the site's thousands of articles.

Specific to RPGs and the older adults population, as far as I know I
have the most experience with this population with RPGs, but it will be
mostly anecdotal and observational information I can share with you at
this point.


This is very much a cohort consideration.

It is important for service providers to develop knowledge and skils in the area of RPGs, because role-playing games were invented in 1974, and that population is now aging in their 60s+. Their favorite recreational past time may very well be RPGs, and care providers should be amenable and supportive an healthy approches to including this activity, and the many potential benefits that the research supports could be received from participation in RPGs. Also an important awaress of caveats, especially for some mental health populations, and the important controls that should be added to mitigate the risks and maximize the benefits.

I have observed role-playing games as old as into their 80s, but very few (they came into RPGs late in life). The cutoff, as of 2018, has been mostly people in the 60s, or at most 70s.

From about 70s+ most of the population just doesn't "get it", isn't interested in it, or has to strongly inculcated negative stereotypes to be open to taking on the activity for themselves. Really, the inculcation is seems to be strongest for about 40 to 80 year olds, with very little to none above 80 (a pretty suddent drop off if it were on a graph (just little awareness in general, or if any awareness, negative inculcated, mostly religion groups related information from the anti-RPG movements), and different inculcated attitudes for those in their teens and early 20s, with 30-something being a more gradual slope.

More specific responses below within context...

On Tue, 20 Mar 2018 17:25:23 +0000
"Pierson,Johnathan Trent" <> wrote:

> To whom it may concern,
> I am a medical student at the University of Louisville with an
> interest in psychiatry and board games/RPGs. I have been looking in
> to starting a RPG therapy group on an adult/geriatric inpatient
> psychiatric ward.

Wonderful! Please keep us in the loop on this. You might want to more
formally join our volunteer team and join our Monday or Tuesday
meetings sharing knowledge, research, and program observations between
many other volunteers. You can join as a volunteer, (you can remote in
to the meetings via Skype), by filling out:

> Though it seems that child play/drama therapy is
> prevalent and extensively researched, I can't seem to find any good
> research on adult play/drama therapy.

Perform university and web searches, in addition to your key words,
using "Therapeutic Recreation" and "Recreation" therapy, especially
"games", "board games", "card games", "tabletop" etc., as other
keywords, you should be able to find a fair amount for other games.
That may help you find some associative research of interest (n
addition to our resources).

>  Is there any resource, research
> or opinions that you could provide to help?

I have lots of opinions and general observations with this population,
and it would fill many pages. It might be faster to have a 30-60 minute
Skype or phone conversation for that.

> Are you actively doing any research?

We have several research projects currently underway, and do have some
in the queue related to this topic. I have performed some less formal
research, in that we created program plans, and assessed the outcomes,
but they were not formal research studies in that we did not have
control groups, etc.

> If so, would it at all be
> possible to be involved in any way?

You would be most welcomed to assist us! We have far more work than
people, so if you join as a volunteer, and are patient with the
learning curve, we could work together to help put together a good
comprehensive program for you based on our prior experiences with such

>  Also, any input on how you
> monitor outcomes of a therapy session and how to focus on specific
> topics within a game to best help a specific disorder would be ever
> so helpful.

You will see on our site a number of tools that different research
projects used. We select from a battery of over 50 assessment tools,
depending on the population, setting, and outcome measurements desired.

The Therapeutic Recreation community has a large book just on
assessment tools in TR, for a wide range, including the validity and
reliability numbers for each assessment tool.

Again, this would be a lengthy conversation via text, spanning pages,
so it might be best via skype/phone to cover the vast information the
most quickly.
> Any information or help you provide would be greatly appreciated.
> Sincerely,
> Trent Pierson


Here is a summmary list of just a few of the assessment tools and processes we use:



Happy to be of assistance. I am booked up through this week, but if you
wanted to schedule a time to speak some time next week, or you could
join our weekly meeting Tuesday next week, I would be happy to provide
a lot more information.

-Hawke Robinson
Washington State Department of Health Registered Recreation Therapist.
Founder & President
RPG Research, an international repository of research information, a
501(c)3 non-profit charitable organization studying the effects
of music and all Role-Playing Game formats. Also providing community
programs enabling participants to achieve educational, entertainment,
professional, and therapeutic goals.
Phone/Text: (509) 481-5437
Office and Postal Address
1312 N. Monroe Suite #114
Spokane, WA, USA

Twitter: @rpgresearch
Skype: rpgresearch