Can you see your grandparent sitting in that chair?
Depressing, isn’t it.
For many of our beloved older generation, opportunities to stay healthy can be limited due to the constraints of aged-care facilities.
Staffing costs to assist residents in maintaining an active body and mind can be prohibitive. Particularly in government funded facilities, this can make it difficult for our loved ones in-care to get what they need to maximise their health and happiness.
But, there may be a solution. Take them for a Wii!
A comprehensive new study by European scientists which combined the results of 17 individual trials, has shown overwhelmingly that video games which combine physical activity with mental challenges can boost brain health. These games are also known as exergames, the most common of which can be played on the Nintendo Wii gaming console.
Exergame benefits go beyond physical activity. Benefits to thinking capacity, attention and behavioural control were also recorded.
These positive effects were not only observed in healthy older people, but also in people suffering dementia and other conditions that affect the brain.
In a statement, study author Dr Joseph Firth said “Physically-active video games have, according to our research, greater impact on brain functioning than regular physical activity alone – suggesting that their benefits are more than just moving around,”
Why should exergames be better than a walk and a sudoku?
Animal research has found that combining physical activity with environments that encourage problem solving leads to the creation of more new brain cells than either strategy does on its own.
Could the same thing be happening with exergames?
We don’t yet have a way to see the creation of cells in the living human brain, so we can’t know for sure. But the data is persuasive.
And there are social benefits too – gaming encourages social interaction.
So, why don’t we put exergames in aged care facilities?
Imagine if your next visit to relatives in care involved more than just a cuppa and a chat. Imagine, playing a game together that has benefits for you both, and your relationship.
The Australian Government released the Aged Care (Living Longer Living Better) Act in 2013 with aims to improve the effectiveness of aged care.
It seems clear that investing in exergames represents a cost-effective way for the government to support the physical and mental health of older Australians.