herald

Sunday 22 October 2017

Wii puts elderly patients on road to recovery

ELDERLY patients in Tallaght Hospital have taken to the Nintendo Wii console as a replacement for physiotherapy -- to help them with severe mobility problems.

Some 13 patients between the ages of 74 and 87 played bowling, tennis and golf on the Wii as part of a study, to find out if the computer games helped their fitness.

Anne-Marie Scanlon, a chartered physiotherapist at the hospital, supervised the project from August 2009 to last January.

"All the patients are over 65. We had a wide variety, some had suffered strokes in the past, some had arthritis, and others had severe illness and were getting back on their feet," she said.

"Some of them were reluctant at first because they were quite new to them. They may not have used computers or games but with practise they got used to it and really enjoyed it."

The Wii, which requires players to mimic actions such as throwing a bowling ball or taking a swing with a golf club as part of a computer game, is already widely used for fitness.

"The principle behind the Wii is very similar to principles behind balance exercises. It is about moving, and training reaction times so that muscles and nerves react. With all of the patients, their scores improved," said Anne-Marie.

"We found that the people involved with the Wii did show an improvement in balance and mobility, and we were particularly interested in the balance aspect."

The project was carried out with Trinity College Dublin and the results were presented to the European Union Geriatric Medicine Society conference at the new Convention Centre Dublin (CCD) last week.

Prof Desmond O'Neill, one of the conference organisers, said he was hopeful that the scheme would be expanded.

"We wanted to make sure that people didn't do worse. It's something fun and useful that older people and their wives, and their family could do," he said.

hnews@herald.ie

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