Thursday, February 19, 2009

Wii-habilitation 'could prevent elderly from falls' -

Playing the Nintendo Wii Fit could improve balance and help avoid falls in seniors, researchers taking part in a new study suggest.

Researchers in Aberdeen think playing Wii Fit may improve the elderly's balance and lower risks of falling.

The University of Aberdeen, Scotland and the UK's National Health Service (NHS) have embarked on a four month study on people over 70 to observe any changes in balance after regular use of the Wii Fit.

I love the title WII-habilitation. Years ago they used video games with kids recovering from cancer. It was supposed to help them visualize destroying the bad cells. I am not sure how well it worked but it was definitely innovative.

But why not use games to develop our much neglected sense of balance. We were taught in school there are 5 senses like that was true. The sense of balance was ignored. But try anything with a thrown off sense of balance and life becomes a living hell very quickly. The world goes topsy turvy instantly.

The foot is linked in tightly to the balance system. I have used the WII Fit system with a great deal of interest. The platform you stand on detects your minute shifts in weight and registers them in the game you are playing. The Wii Fit system also measures your balance giving you feedback as to where your balance weaknesses lie.

But the best part is that it is fun. You can use your head to bounce back soccer balls while avoiding flying shoes and panda heads and improve your balance at the same time. Or you can ski your way to better balance. There is a whole category for balance alone.

The foot becomes smarter in the process. It learns to make small movements and not to overreact. It's adaptation to changes in balance become less rigid and smoother in response. That has to be good for the brain/ foot connection.

That is where we become weak with age. Our brains lose connection with the feet and the feet lose connection with the brain. The estimates on the cost of falls are in the billions. It is the leading cause of death among seniors.

I hope WII-habilitation becomes a craze among seniors and younger folks as well. It is not just the economic costs but the terrible human costs that must be considered.

Kevin Kunz

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