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Popular video game helps seniors stay active, healthy

September 20, 2012

With their use of the internet and social media on the rise, seniors have become increasingly likely to embrace technology. While certain gadgets help older adults stay connected, others have become a part of healthy aging, and some physical therapists have turned to using the Nintendo Wii as part of their sessions, The New York Times reports.

In particular, some therapists use the popular game Wii Golf because it contains many components that strengthen areas older adults often struggle with. Experts say it can improve both strength and balance, and unlike some other exercises it offers an element of fun, especially for golf enthusiasts. Even for patients in neurological rehabilitation, the game has offered benefits.

"The difference is that by using the Wii, it's more fun for the patient," physical therapist Dr. Arlene McCarthy told the Times. "I believe therapy should be fun and meaningful for the individual, and if they are having a good time while getting better, it's another tool in our toolbox that we can use."

The anecdotal evidence is just the latest suggesting that technology may hold many benefits for seniors. In addition to Wii Golf and other exergames, simply using the computer may actually improve mental health, some research suggests. The 2005 study, which focused on adults over 65, found that seniors who used computers tended to have fewer symptoms of depression.

"Given the social and informational nature of older adults' computer practices - e-mail, chat rooms, and health information gathering, for example - it seemed likely that this would be beneficial to an individual's overall mental health," said researcher Kathleen Triche.

Additionally, there are many new gadgets being developed with seniors in mind, whether it be devices aimed at helping them manage their medication or stay safe on the road.