Research carried out in Ireland and Northern Ireland has shown how playing specially developed video games on the Nintendo Wii Balance Board can help older people improve their balance, making them less likely to fall.
About 300 older people die from falls each year across the island of Ireland while many thousands are injured, sometimes seriously, with women over 80 years old being the most vulnerable.
The treatment of falls is estimated to cost health and social services more than €400m. As our population ages, an official report from the Republic of Ireland projected a 116pc increase in falls among those aged 65-plus and treatment costs rising to €2bn by 2031 in the absence of a strategic solution.
Falls can also damage an older person’s confidence, while injuries can reduce mobility and result in isolation and loneliness.
A fun solution
However, research from Queen’s University Belfast partnered with Trinity College Dublin has shown how video games could help improve the situation. The study, which was funded by the Centre for Ageing Research and Development in Ireland, tested games with participants in Dublin and Belfast.
“The games designed in this project to build better balance were formulated with older people in mind,” explained Prof Cathy Craig, who led the research. “Older people who played the games enjoyed an improvement in both static and dynamic balance. This approach proved to be a fun way of achieving these benefits in a novel, stimulating and cost-effective manner.”