‘Wiihabilitation’ Finds A Place At St. Luke

Submitted Article

OSWEGO, NY – Residents at St. Luke Health Services are joining the “Wii Nation” and have begun to increase their use of games like the Nintendo Wii, both for fun and for exercise.

St. Luke Physical Therapy Assistant Paul Franz works on some “wiihabilitation” with Doris Welch.“When we first introduced the Wii, folks were a bit skeptical, until they tried it,” said Donna Rose, director of activities. “But now we are
organizing regular activity programs around the game and will soon be holding regular events like bowling tournaments.”

Using the Nintendo Wii games and console can help elderly residents stay mentally and physically active.

Rose noted, “The Wii is suitable for use by us because it can be controlled and adapted to suit users of varying abilities. People can
play as individuals or in groups so there is plenty of opportunity for everyone to join in socially.”

And the social aspects cannot be understated.

“Some of the folks who play clearly do so because they enjoy the company of others, not to mention a little competition,” added Rose.

The Nintendo Wii console and assorted equipment was purchased through the St. Luke “Make a Wish” program, which is supported by the John Foster Burden Fund.

The whole package is stored in a traveling cart and goes from unit to unit – or wherever someone wants to bowl a few frames, or golf a few holes.

The Nintendo Wii is an ideal recreational outlet because its controller can track spatial movement, which allows game play with normal human movements.

How prevalent is the Wii or video games in general in the older population?

Twenty-four percent of Americans over age 50 played video games in 2007, up from 9 percent in 1999, according to the Entertainment Software Association.

St. Luke is also finding that the physical dexterity involved in using the controls have therapeutic benefits, as well as serving as

The St. Luke Rehabilitation Program has incorporated the use of the Wii into rehab for some patients.

Physical Therapy Assistant Paul Franz uses the Wii to help improve range of motion and keep folks interested in their therapy, which is repetitive by nature.

Noted Franz, “The usual stretching and lifting exercises that we use to help patients regain strength and range of motion can be uncomfortable, challenging and at times repetitive.”

Using the game console’s unique, motion-sensitive controller, Wii games require body movements similar to traditional therapy exercises or everyday motion.

But some patients become so engrossed mentally in the game they’re almost oblivious to the rigors of moving, Franz said.

“In the Wii game system, I have seen patients develop a certain level of competitiveness. You may be bowling or playing tennis against some figure on a screen, but folks become focused on trying to beat their opponent, or bettering a previous score,” said Franz. “When people can refocus their attention from the repetition of a physical task associated with therapy, oftentimes they can achieve better results. The fun and challenges associated with playing a game can make a difference.”