Older women a Wii bit happier

Older women a Wii bit happier

04 Apr 2011

Video games tend to be associated with laziness, isolation and pre-pubescent teenagers, rarely are they known to improve lifestyles, communication and mobility for people over the age of 50. However, a recent study through La Trobe University’s School of Public Health found the Nintendo Wii benefits the social and emotional well-being of older women.

Wii

A 12 week study was conducted on women aged 56-84 who attended a Planned Activity Group (PAG) in a Community Health Centre located in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. The area has an ageing population with an increase in chronic diseases such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.

‘Older persons are at risk of isolation and have low levels of physical activity, both of which are associated with negative health outcomes. In this study, we explored the feasibility of incorporating the Nintendo Wii into a PAG setting to assess the physical and psychosocial effects,’ says Dr Wollersheim.

The first 6 weeks were spend measuring the women’s physical exertion through normal activities like drinking tea, eating snacks, selling lottery tickets and walking to the canteen. The second half of the study intervened with the Wii and also measured the women’s oxygen levels and metabolic rate.

‘Participants perceived a greater sense of physical well-being through the physical output of the games,’ says Dr Wollersheim.

Women played Nintendo Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort games twice a week for 50 minutes during the 6-week intervention period of the study. The Wii can simulate sports that, due to aging, participants have either given up, or believe they would never be able to try.

Many of the women noted that being more technologically adept allowed them to be more connected to their grandchildren, says Dr Wollersheim. ‘The physical nature of the play also encourages interaction between players and spectators. This makes Wii-play more connected to the real world than traditional video games.’

This study was the among the first to incorporate the Nintendo Wii and measure the social outcomes amongst older women. The Wii was able to bridge age and technology induced gaps, allowing the women to overcome both physical and emotional barriers by participating in a supportive environment and sharing experiences with family members and friends.

‘The Wii-play engaged the women both mentally and physically, providing fun and ongoing rewards common to video games, and this engagement seemed to generate a new positive attitude,’ says Dr Wollersheim.

Dr Wollersheim’s tips for increasing physical activity:


•    Exercise is good for you. We all know this, but we often don't take action on it. Why is this so? Because everyone – especially people who have not exercised recently – has uncomfortable feelings about exercise. It is not that we particularly don't want to do the exercise; we just don't want to feel uncomfortable.

•    Exercise is easier if it is fun. The uneasy feelings that stop us from exercising can be improved by doing something that is fun. It is important to try new things in order to find something that is both fun and stimulating. Whether it be by trying something new like the Wii, exercise will come more naturally if you find something you enjoy.  

•    Exercise is easier if it is social. Uncomfortable feelings can be handled more easily if we are in the company of like minded people. Being in a social situation will assist in squashing the negative aspects of activity. Exercising in a group or with just one other person can provide support and motivation to continue.

The complete study can be foundhere

Researchers and health professionals of varied and complimentary backgrounds that conducted this study include:

 Dennis Wollersheim, lecturer in Health Information Management in the School of Public
Health, La Trobe University

Monika Merkes, social researcher, consultant, and Honorary Associate with the
Australian Institute for Primary Care at La Trobe University.

Nora Shields, senior lecturer and postgraduate coordinator at the School of
Physiotherapy, La Trobe University.

Pranee Liamputtong, who holds a Personal Chair in Public Health at the School of Public Health,
La Trobe University.

Lara Wallis, who is affiliated with the School of Public Health, La Trobe University.

Fay Reynolds, Manager of Darebin Community Health Service, Melbourne, Australia

Lee Koh, a postgraduate student currently involved in mobile phone based peer support in
marginalised communities.

For any media enquiries please contact:

Meghan Lodwick


La Trobe University Communications Officer 
T: 03 9479 5353 E: M.Lodwick@latrobe.edu.au

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