Researchers utilize video games to improve balance, motor skills and activity for elderly
The stereotypical video game player is generally seen as a teenager or college student, staying up all night playing with friends fueled by Red Bull and pizza. However, researchers from Cleveland State University are working to turn an unlikely group, senior citizens, into “gamers” in an effort to enhance rehabilitation and improve socialization.
CSU physical therapy professors Deborah Espy and Ann Reinthal are testing multiple games and platforms with patients suffering from arthritis, strokes and other mobility issues to assess the impact gaming has on balance, motor skills and hand eye coordination. They are working with a team of researchers from multiple universities, through an initiative called Kinecting with Clinicians, with the goal of ultimately assisting physical therapists and occupational therapists in implementing video games as part of rehabilitation therapy.
“Video games are an excellent rehabilitation tool because they are immersive, interactive, can mimic real life situations and can be modulated to meet the cognitive and motors skill needs of the player,” Espy says. “The data collected can also be downloaded and transferred to researchers or clinicians, allowing patients to play at home instead of the lab, as is the case with most rehab devices.”
Espy and Reinthal also note that gaming assists seniors in remaining active and engaged with others, reducing the chance for isolation and depression that often can effect this group.
“Gaming is an excellent social activity tool, particularly for individuals who are less mobile,” Reinthal adds. “With services like Xbox Live, seniors can play and interact with individuals from all over the world without having to leave their homes.”
The team has developed a knowledge translation resource to better inform game selection and modifications to address individual therapeutic goals. They are currently conducting additional video game tests to further enhance the tool and interviews with clinicians to gain additional data on outcomes and results for patients. Kinecting with Clinicians also includes researchers from the University of Ottawa, the University of Florida, The University of Washington-Seattle and Rutgers University.