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Herald Journal Health & Medical Resources Guide

published July 2011

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Herald Journal Publishing
PO Box 129
Winsted, MN 55395
(320) 485-2535

Exergaming: Not just for the technology-savvy young

By Jennifer Kotila, Staff Writer

When people think of who’s playing the Wii, Xbox, Playstation, or other video gaming consoles, they tend to picture those who grew up in the 1980s and later.

But, with the advent of games with easy-to-use devices that mimic the actual movement needed to do things, or simply having to move one’s body for the desired outcomes, many senior citizens who are residents in long-term care facilities, or are patients of physical therapy, are using these games as well.

Long-term care facilities and physical therapists throughout the area are using Wii’s and other video games to improve the health of senior citizens and help others regain strength after traumatic injuries.

“You would think that many of the older patients wouldn’t like using these games, but they love it,” said St. Mary’s of Winsted lead therapist Trisha Schauer.

Physical and occupational therapists use the games to improve strength, balance, activity tolerance, and coordination.

Not only are the long-term care facilities using the games for physical exercise, but also to improve residents’ and patients’ cognitive skills.

For instance, Wii’s Big Game Academy has games that work on quick-thinking skills, memorization, computing skills, and visual perception, which are all areas the therapists would be helping patients with anyway, Shauer said.

Although some long-term care residents consider the controls too complex sometimes, the activities departments have found that trivia games or those like the Family Feud work well in a group setting.

Assistants control the remote, but the residents answer the questions, stimulating their brain while providing the residents with a change of pace.

“I like the challenge. It makes me think in different ways,” said Good Samaritan Society - Howard Lake resident Mickey Story.

Some therapists use video games to help ease residents agitation or other unwanted behaviors.

“When using something like the Wii, which is more interactive, it gets them using the parts of their brain they’re not usually using,” said Adam Jordan, a therapist for residents at Cokato Manor and Brookridge. “It can decrease behaviors, get the residents out of their normal responses, and their brainwaves firing.”

Because games keep scores for the patients and residents, they have a visual of how much they’ve improved, rather than just hearing from the therapists that they are doing better.

“It definitely makes things more exciting for the residents,” said St. Mary’s therapist Stephanie Veo, DPT (doctorate of physical therapy). “It’s a good dynamic balance. They go home and tell their grandkids about playing video games.”

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