We’re all growing older.
Our silver years are a period of challenges and rewards. A time to explore, discover and experiment. But, they can also be a time in life marked by profound loneliness. A shocking one in three seniors reports feeling socially isolated, a fact that puts them at greater risk of heart attack, stroke and even premature death. What can be done for the world’s seniors?
One trailblazing group of elders has an unexpected solution to the loneliness epidemic. Sweden’s Silver Snipers are a group of energetic elders combating loneliness through virtual gaming.
They are the world’s first seniors-only competitive esports team, and — controllers in-hand — they’re out to prove that growing older doesn’t have to mean growing lonelier.
The average age of teammates clocks in at 67, but that doesn’t mean the Snipers aren’t serious competitors. At DreamHack Summer 2019, the Snipers took home the World Cup in Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO), proving that the next generation of esports champions just might be over 65.
But winning, according to member Abbe “Birdie” Drakborg, is just the short-term goal: “Our big goal is, of course, to show people that gaming is for everyone and that if we can, so can you!”
The Silver Snipers team was conceived of, recruited, trained and sponsored by Lenovo. The team is equipped with a series of top-of-the-line Lenovo Legion gaming computers and accessories, so there’s nothing standing in the way between the Snipers and the competition.
“Technology has brought so much good to our world, but the more technology is integrated into our society [the more] we’ve seen seniors express that they are feeling alienated and isolated,” said Lale Johansson, Consumer Marketing Manager, Lenovo, and one of the brains behind Silver Snipers. “This issue was something that was motivating us. We wanted to see if we could address it or raise awareness of it in a positive and inspiring way.”
Female gamers can be as good as male gamers and I am grateful for being a role model for women and old people.
– Inger “Trigger Finger” Grotteblad
And inspirational the Snipers are. Yet being a member of the silver-haired club is no small commitment.
The team attends two bootcamps a month at a gaming center in Stockholm, in addition to regular practice sessions at home, honing their skills in everything from aiming and strategy to teambuilding and movement. Competitors beware.
Besides a trophy here and there, the team says gaming has had some serious benefits, including enhanced focus, decision-making, and problem-solving skills — all thanks to CS:GO, an easy-to-learn first-person shooter game. But it’s the sense of community that means the most to these geriatric gamers.
Even in your silver years, a feeling of belonging can be found in the most unexpected of places — including a massive (and growing) industry like esports, whose revenue surpassed $1 billion in 2019.
Even in your silver years, a feeling of belonging can be found in the most unexpected of places.
“Female gamers can be as good as male gamers and I am grateful for being a role model for women and old people. I have also started a group with old people to learn to play. Meeting friends is a big thing for me, I have my friends online and I don’t feel alone.” says Inger “Trigger Finger” Grotteblad.
Many of the teammates report feeling more connected to their grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. Baltasar “El Niño” Aguirre thinks gaming provides the perfect venue for grandparents to get to know the younger members of their clan. Through sharing a hobby, he says, unexpected connections can be found and fostered.
“[My grandkids and I] have found a common interest and that is fantastic!” says Inger. “The impact has been overwhelming, beyond my expectations.”
Grotteblad says, “she never expected to serve as a role model at age 67, but she’s grateful to be able to demonstrate that “diversity rocks!”
And to those hesitant to embark on the gaming path, Öivind “Windy” Toverud has some words of advice: “I would just say, go for it! You have nothing to be afraid of.”