Wii video games help rehabilitation patients

2011-04-17T00:00:00Z Wii video games help rehabilitation patientsBY ROB EARNSHAW Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
April 17, 2011 12:00 am  • 

The living room at Life Care Center of the Willows in Valparaiso used to be pretty quiet during weekday afternoons.

Now it's filled with the sounds of bowling, sword fighting, dancing, laughter and a little bit of friendly taunting.

It's all courtesy of the Nintendo Wii video game, and it's brought many social and physical benefits to the rehabilitation facility.

Wii is a motion-controlled console that requires the participants to move around to reach the desired effect of their play. It was first introduced to Willows a few years ago during physical therapy sessions for residents who needed to improve their mobility and strength.

Then, early this last winter, Willows Executive Director Cathy Fulton brought a Wii system for the facility's living room.

"At first we had one or two residents playing the bowling game but before you knew it half of the units were coming down for social hour to play it and just hang out together," said Stacey Kellogg, Willows marketing director.

From a social aspect it was pretty amazing, according to Kellogg, because some quiet and shy individuals not too comfortable leaving their rooms began to venture out to see what all the excitement was about.

Physically, the game helps residents with balance and movement. Kellogg said their rehab services manager explained how a person will try hard to have proper balance to achieve good form and get results from playing Wii.

"So they're actually improving upon their balance when they didn't even realize it," Kellogg said.

Kellogg said the game promotes total body movement and when there's movement it increases blood and oxygen flow - which also helps them achieve better moods.

"When your mood starts to improve and you're starting to socialize more it makes a huge difference in the quality of life," she said.

One of the top champions of Willows Wii is full-time resident and former nurse Cynthia Hyde, 60. She enjoys the competition of bowling the most.

"It gets your body moving and your mind moving because you're trying to add your score up as it goes along," she said.

Hyde said it was her suggestion to Fulton to start gaming in the living room of Willows in addition to its use in the therapy room.

"I have a bad shoulder and this helps considerably," she said. "I can reach up and touch things I haven't been able to for years.

"I just enjoy it, and I'm not a big person to come out of my room for activities, either."

Mike Mings, 35, was born with spina bifida and recently suffered a broken femur. A short-term resident undergoing therapy at the Willows, the volunteer firefighter from Valparaiso loves the game's social and physical aspects.

"It helps me socialize with the people around here and helps me stay in shape as much as I can," he said.

Fulton said it's wonderful to see the residents having a good time.

"We have a lot of fun," she said. "It's not just for your 16 year old."


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