Games for Seniors: Pokémon Go

Written by: Jim Schrempp. Posted: October 20, 2016. 



Pokémon Go is a new game that has taken the world by storm. Since its release the price of Nintendo Ltd. stock has doubled. Closer to home, I’m sure you’ve seen it too — young (and not so young) people have turned into smart-phone staring zombies as they walk down the street. There are reports of people walking into telephone poles. Groups of people are gathering at certain odd locations around town staring at their phones. Holy cow, Batman, what’s this all about?

In this article and the accompanying video we will tell you a bit about Pokémon Go and give you all you need to know to give it a try yourself.


Does Pokemon Go Belong on the "Exercises for Seniors" List?

We’ve looked into Pokémon Go and you might be surprised at what we found. Pokémon Go is a simple game but to play you HAVE to walk around the town. You can’t play by just sitting in your living room. That is one of the secrets to its success.

We all know that walking is good exercise, and that exercise is a key ingredient for a healthy life. Perhaps Pokémon Go can provide some additional motivation to help increase one's out and about time. Maybe it will start to appear on a list of exercises for seniors?

If you try the app, you won’t be alone. In our experience, many older adults will shyly admit that they “know something” about Pokémon Go until we confess that we play. Then they light up and start telling us about all the fun they’re having — and all the walking they’re doing! We all have to work on avoiding falls, maybe the Pokémon Go app for seniors can be part of your personal plan to stay fit.

You may think Pokémon Go is just a silly game, but you would be wrong. Search Google for the phrase “pokemon go is not a silly game” and you’ll find dozens of interesting articles discussing the impact Pokémon Go has had on people. There aren’t a tremendous number of fun apps for seniors specifically. And if playing this “game” gets seniors out walking around, it can be a good component of a home exercise program.


Pokémon Go: The Basics

Pokémon Go is a free game for the Android and Apple smart-phones. There’s no need to ever pay any money to play this game. Pokémon Go is a single player game, but it has some elements that let you team up with a friend. The only objective of the game is play it. Yes you can gain “experience points” to “level up”, but its real value is in getting you out and walking.

Pokémon Go cleverly uses your GPS location to situate the game in the location where you are currently standing. The screen shows the actual roads around you, much as a street map application would. As you walk around the displayed map will also move, always showing you the streets around you.

There are two basic activities in the game. First, as you walk around with the application open virtual pocket monsters (Pokémon) will occasionally appear near you. When you see one on your screen you tap on it and then swipe your finger on the screen to “toss a ball at it.” You watch the ball fly away on your phone screen and if you’re lucky you “capture” the Pokémon. You only have so many balls and every time you “toss a ball” at a Pokémon you lose one. Run out of balls and you can’t capture any more Pokémon.

This leads to the second activity, collecting balls. You collect balls by walking near a “PokéStop”. These are set locations around town. Most are at some interesting place: a historical plaque, a piece of art, a library, etc. When you look at your smart-phone screen you’ll see these PokéStop as little floating cubes. Walk close to one and it changes shape. Then you can collect some virtual balls from it. Now that you have more balls, you can go “hunt” more Pokémon.

Frankly I’ll bet this all seems a bit hard to envision. You should watch our short instructional video at this point.


How Can This Game Be Free?

While the game is free, you can spend money if you want. You don’t ever have to buy things, but some people do. You might find that you are discovering wild Pokémon faster than you can visit PokéStops to collect more balls. Then you can spend real world money to buy more balls. The industry calls this “in-app purchases” and it's a very lucrative business. However, if you want to work on your stamina then don't buy balls - walk! Use this as motivation to keep walking.

A second revenue stream has been proposed by pundits: paying to have a PokéStop near your business. I can imagine an ice cream parlor paying per month to have a PokéStop outside its front door. Perhaps a shopping mall would pay to have several located inside the mall. Some churches have asked to have a PokéStop near them. Anyone who wants to attract foot traffic might pay for one.


What’s in it for the Older Adult?

AARP Magazine (9/2016) articulated three benefits of this app for seniors.

  • Exercise — You can’t play  Pokémon Go while sitting in your easy chair. You have to get out and walk the streets. We all know that walking is a key way to maintain and improve our health. Pokémon Go can supply the motivation to get us walking and become a part of your home exercise program.

  • Connecting — While the game is played alone, it’s fun to do some “Poké Walking” with friends. You will naturally meet other adults playing the game and you can team up with them to form a regular walking group. Pokémon Go is also a good way to connect with your children and grandkids. If Pokémon Go is part of their lives right now, you’ll be able to participate in the game with them. Imagine hearing, “grandpa, will you go Pokémoning with me?”

  • Exploration — PokéStops are often at local points of interest. Many people have discovered new tidbits about their city through Pokémon Go. When traveling your Pokémon Go addiction will help you find interesting places all over the world.



While the game seems trivial, don’t people say the same thing about golf? Is “capturing Pokémon” any less significant than “hitting a little white ball with a stick?” The point of these activities is to motivate us to exercise and to socially connect with other people. Pokémon Go is a tool, just like a golf club is a tool. Why not pick up this new tool and give it a swing?


Some other interesting reading on the subject:

Wall Street Journal: Pokemon Go surged by building community

Wall Street Journal: Pokemon Go: Whay you should play








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Key words: 
Pokemon Go, Pokemon, falls, exercise, games, apps

Last Updated: May 13, 2020.

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