Nintendo Wii for falls reduction in the elderly?
Falls in the elderly represent a major health and economic burden leading to fractures, immobility and mortality. The age-related decline in muscle mass (sarcopenia), balance deficits and altered gait parameters have been strongly linked with falling in the elderly population.
Physiotherapy and rehab programs targeting these parameters are effective at reducing fall rates amongst the elderly. Recently the use of computer games and simulations has become a popular means to make interventions less formal and more fun for participants. While more traditional approaches to falls reduction (OTAGO program) have a well-established body of evidence to support their efficacy, is the use of game based falls reduction supported by empirical evidence?
A recent study attempted to address this question by studying a small group of elderly individuals over 8 weeks. At baseline, all participants were tested using several validated measures of balance and falls risk, primarily the Berg Balance Scale (BBS), and then split into 2 groups, control (n=15) and intervention (n=15).
The intervention group completed 3 sessions (45 minute sessions) per week using Wii-Fit programs based upon Yoga, Strength Training, Aerobics and Balance Games. The control group completed cognitive ‘brain training’ tasks only with no physical intervention. Re-assessment at the end of the study showed a significant increase in BBS score in the intervention group but no change in the control group.
The results of this study show that the use of the Nintendo Wii-Fit can significantly lower risk factors associated with falling in elder populations. Although the use of computer games based rehab is already a reasonably wide spread intervention, these data provide empirical evidence to support clinical decision making and presents a very easily imitated rehabilitation protocol for improving balance in elders.
While several barriers still exist to this approach in the wider geriatric community, specifically for those with sensory or cognitive impairments, where possible, the use of games based rehab should be considered for use for improving balance and reducing falls risk in the elderly.
> From: Padala et al., J Aging Res 2017 (2017) 4653635. All rights reserved to The Author(s). Click here for the online summary.