How Xbox Is Using Gaming to Connect the Elderly to Loved Ones

A deeper connection than another Zoom call

Loneliness among the elderly is on the rise, with one in three suffering from it. Age U.K. finds that a million older people go a month or more without speaking to anyone, and isolation has only gotten worse since Covid-19.

Microsoft's Xbox is seeing what it can do to help. Along with McCann London, it's launched "Beyond Generations," which explores how gaming can improve real-world relationships, especially between family members who are divided not only by space but by time.

The objective is for young people to teach older people how to game. And in so doing, they get to know them over the meditative course of their shared virtual journey.

Meet Mary and Jason.

Xbox Beyond Generations | Mary & Jason

"I'm looking forward to learning how to play video games with him. Whether it would help me to get to know him better or not, I'm hoping. I'm really hoping," Mary, the elderly family member, says at the video's start.

Over the course of weeks, playing games like Minecraft, Sea of Thieves, and Forza, we see them chat openly about Mary's life.

"Any sort of activity where you're engaging with someone else, it instantly sparks a time opportunity just to talk," Jason adds.

The video "Howard and Dhillon" explores those same dynamics with a guy even younger than Jason. It also addresses the challenge of Covid in a more direct way and tacitly addresses the difference between video calls, which tend to be surface-oriented and perfunctory, and the experience of gaming together, where you can really get to know one another over a deep, collaborative process.

"I think the best way to improve a relationship is to learn something together," Dhillon says.

Xbox Beyond Generations | Howard and Dhillon

Despite stereotypes about how gaming increases isolation, much has been said this past year about how it actually creates safe community space, especially when people can't otherwise congregate or interact normally.

"Isolation and loneliness are topics brought into sharp focus in present times, particularly for the elderly," says Michael Flatt, director of global integrated marketing at Xbox. "It's important that we shine a light on the problem, and we're proud to bring this initiative into realization with the hope of making a step toward renewing family connections and democratizing gaming for everyone." 

As a supplement to the campaign, Xbox is introducing a "ReBoxing" initiative, which subverts the trend of unboxing videos by getting gamers to re-box old consoles to share with elderly family members. An accompanying three-step guide walks them through the process, encouraging them to add gift messages and product tags that make it easier for recipients to understand what each item does and how it fits together.

Xbox also partnered with multiple charities dedicated to supporting the elderly right now, including Age U.K. and Age International.

"This initiative is close to our hearts because it shows the power gaming has to make a genuine difference in people's lives," says Sanjiv Mistry, executive creative director at McCann London. "And the more people who take up the call and start reboxing their old consoles and giving them to their grandparents, the more those siloes of loneliness start to break down. We're honored to partner with Xbox to help nudge families a little bit closer together." 

This isn't the first time Xbox has explored the out-of-the-box potential of its own services. Early last year it created travel guides that blurred the real and virtual worlds … and in December, it explored the lucid dreams of influencers after their gaming experiences.


McCann London
Laurence Thomson – Chief Creative Officer McCann UK and Co-President, McCann London
Rob Doubal - Chief Creative Officer McCann UK and Co-President, McCann London
Jamie Mietz – Executive Creative Director
Sanjiv Mistry - Executive Creative Director
James Crosby – Senior Creative 
William Cottam – Senior Creative 
Lisa Carrana – Head of design
David Coates - Designer
Jonathan Bender – Senior Planner
Mike Phillips – Senior Planner
Jessica Tamsedge – Managing Director
Sailesh Jani – Managing Partner  
Oscar Flintoft – Business Director
Melanie Vickers – Account Director
May Sinlapa – Senior Account Manager 
Eloise Thompson – Account Associate
Clare Prager – Project Director
Georgia Wettenhall – Senior Project Manager

Production agency (Craft)
Chief Production Officer – Sergio Lopez
Head of Integrated Production – Sophie Chapman-Andrews
Executive Producer - Alec Christie
Senior Producer - Zara Balfour
Head of Post Production – Pedro Pinto 
Post Producer – Jamie Cooper
Producer – Sarah Hall
Senior Print Producer – Liam White
Print Producer – Steve Tester
Production Business Affairs – Val Boyce and Molly Strasser

Production Company Credits
Production Company – Craft 
Director – Chris Fowles
Producer – Zara Balfour
Director of Photography – Terrence Wilkins
Composer – Chris Davey
Editor – Alex Young @ Craft
Assistant Producer – Toby Burden  
Assistant Editor – Ashley Joiner @ Craft
Assistant Camera – Marti Guiver & Luke Makepeace
Sound Design & Mix – Mihai Meirosu @ Craft
Grade – Steffan Perry @ Framestore
Online Editor – Simon Hall @ Craft
Covid Supervisor – David Devine
Illustrator – Son of Alan

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Angela Natividad
Angela Natividad is the European markets editor at Muse by Clio. She also writes about gaming and fashion, and whatever else she's interested in, really. She's based in Paris and North Italy, so if you're local, say hi. She might eat all your food.

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