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Dublin: 9 °C Tuesday 21 October, 2014

Video games could help prevent older people from falling

Research from Trinity and Queen’s finds that older people’s balance can be improved by games using the Wii balance board.

Playing basic balance games using the board of the Nintendo Wii can reduce the risk of falls in older people.
Playing basic balance games using the board of the Nintendo Wii can reduce the risk of falls in older people.
Image: Katie Collins/PA Archive

NEW CROSS-BORDER RESEARCH has found that the number of painful and potentially serious falls suffered by older people can be minimised through video games.

Research funded by the Centre for Ageing Research and Development in Ireland (CARDI), and carried out in Queen’s University and Trinity College, found that games developed for pay using the balance board from the Nintendo Wii made older people significantly less likely to fall.

“Improving balance and gait can play an important role in helping older people avoid falls and injury as well as improving their mobility confidence,” said Professor Cathy Craig of Queen’s University, who led the research.

“Older people who played the games enjoyed an improvement in both static and dynamic balance,” she added.

The research involved testing the games on older people in both Dublin and Belfast, and found that those who played the games enjoyed significantly greater improvements in balance than those who did not play.

Researchers concluded that playing similar games where balance is involved could play an important role in minimising the risk of falls in the future. The games used in the project were purpose-designed and built with older people in mind.

It is thought that about 300 older people die from injuries sustained in falls each year, while thousands more are injured and often left severely immobile.

It is thought that the healthcare cost of treating older fall victims can reach about €400 million per year in the Republic alone, while falls can also result in reduced mobility for older people which in turn can lead to isolation, loneliness and damaged confidence.

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