Nintendo first introduced the Wii gaming console into the US market in 2007. A few savvy therapists recognized the potential of Wii games for therapy rather quickly. Research into the effectiveness of Wii activities began soon after the Wii was introduced and one of the first published projects demonstrated the effectiveness of Wii activities in improving balance and other measures in a adolescent with cerebral palsy. Over the next few years, many other pilot studies, along with research conducted on a larger scale produced outcomes indicating that Wii activities can improve outcomes in several patient populations.
In the most recent issue of BMC Geriatrics, Kate Laver, Julie Ratcliffe, Stacey George, Leonie Burgess, and Maria Crotty present the findings of their research.
Is the Nintendo Wii Fit really acceptable to older people?: A discrete choice experiment found in
BMC Geriatrics 2011, 11:64 (20 October 2011) finds that for hospitalized older people Wii Fit activities may not be the best choice. This study indicates that some hospitalized older adults prefer traditional therapy to Nintendo Wii Fit activities for rehab.
The researchers hypothesized that the older adults would have a more positive view of the use of Wii Fit in therapy following exposure to use. The research outcome did not support that hypothesis, finding instead that this particular study group(n=18) indicated a preference for traditional therapy approaches to Wii Fit activities. The participants often cited as a reason that they thought more traditional approaches were more effective. The participants engaged in Wii fit activities for 25 minutes a day, 5 days a week, averaging 6 sessions.
The authors of this study present a thorough review of their work, including areas of potential future research brought to mind by this study.
This study produced findings that were not in sync with the popular presentation of Wii and Wii fit activities in therapy. In my own practice, I choose to use Nintendo Wii activities in conjunction with traditional approaches. I find with older adults, especially if they have cognitive impairments or signs of depression, Wii activities are less readily accepted. In the above mentioned study, each participant took the Mini Mental State Examination(MMSE) and scored greater than or equal to 21/30, ruling out cognitive impairment. In future studies aimed at determining acceptability of Nintendo Wii activities in therapy, including a depression scale measurement may provide additional insight into willingness to accept new approaches over more traditional therapeutic methodologies in this population.