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ISU professors use video games to encourage seniors to stay active

October 28, 2013

Staying physically active is one of the most important aspects of healthy aging, and a team of researchers from Iowa State University is developing a unique way to help seniors do just that. Three professors from the Ames-based school created LIFE, which stands for living well through intergenerational fitness, a program that encourages seniors to stay active by using video games, the Iowa State Daily reported.

The initiative relies heavily on younger volunteers who help older adults familiarize themselves with a gaming system that uses motion sensors and requires players to keep moving while playing. By reaching out to older adults in retirement communities, churches, wellness centers and elsewhere, the team hopes its program will start local residents down the path toward healthy senior living

"The goal is to increase physical activity in older adults, as well as offering benefits to the younger adults," Sarah Francis, assistant professor of food science and human nutrition and one of the founders of LIFE, told the news source. "The program reduces negative stereotypes that younger adults hold about older adults and it actually promotes better expectations regarding aging."

By turning to technology, Francis and the rest of her team are taking advantage of the growing tendency of seniors to be more connected. A number of studies have shed light on the fact that older adults are increasingly likely to adopt the latest gadgets and technology. A recent poll from research firm Ipsos showed that approximately 52 percent of seniors regularly use the Internet, 59 percent of whom use a social networking site at least once a day.