Page last updated at 13:33 GMT, Saturday, 4 October 2008 14:33 UK

Wii solution to age old problem

Hayley Jarvis
BBC Scotland's news website


Pensioners take up computer games

A care home in South Lanarkshire has turned to video games in a bid to combat the problem of elderly falls.

Residents at Whitehills in East Kilbride have ditched their traditional morning exercises in favour of taking turns on the Nintendo Wii - a computer console that responds to body movements.

"I'm recovering from a stroke and the messages from my brain to my hands don't always get there in the right sequence," said Jim Faith, a resident a Whitehills Care Home.

The 68-year-old has been testing out the home's new exercise tool, a bowling game on the Nintendo Wii, and seemed to be impressed with the results.

"This helps you coordinate your eyes, your hands, your brain," he said.

I think because they're actively moving muscles and things it reduces the risk of their falls

Janice McEwan, home manager

NHS Scotland figures show that half of those admitted to a nursing home have experienced some kind of fall.

The statistic prompted Janice McEwan, manager of Whitehills, to introduce the Wii as part of the home's fall reduction strategy.

She said: "It's partly to do with coordination and also the residents now look forward to that time in the morning and know their morning exercises are coming along. And they just get great benefit from it.

"I think because they're actively moving muscles and things it reduces the risk of their falls."

The home initially borrowed a computer console, but it proved to be so popular they decided to hold a series of sponsored walks so they could buy three of their own.

But some of the residents are not too sure what to make to make of their new exercise regime.

"I was just bewildered in a way," said 94-year-old Ivy Kelly after giving the bowling game a shot for the first time. "I didn't know what I was going to do."

Ivy Kelly and Margaret Craig
Residents take it in turns to play games on the computer each morning.

But she thinks she could get used to it.

She said: "It doesn't really bother me what kind of exercise I do, as long as I'm doing it."

The home insists it is not an alternative to other forms of exercise and fresh air.

Activities coordinator Avril Mitchell said: "We have lots of games in the home, we have the bowling machines, the ten pin bowling, we have hoop games and we do an exercise regime as well. And we go out for walks on a daily basis.

"But unfortunately with the winter approaching we have to think of alternative things to do, and obviously the Wii machine is quite a fun thing and a lot of residents have been getting a lot of use out of it so far."

The charities Help the Aged and Age Concern said they welcomed the use of computer games as a way of making elderly people more active.

The residents at Whitehills now plan to do more fundraising so they can buy an exercise mat to go with the machine.

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