Page last updated at 00:07 GMT, Thursday, 5 February 2009

Elderly wanted for Wii experiment

Nintendo Wii
The Nintendo Wii and its balance board will be used

Researchers in Aberdeen are looking for people over 70 to take part in a study to see if the Nintendo Wii Fit could help their balance.

The University of Aberdeen and NHS Grampian want to find out if the games system's balance board can help prevent older people falling.

They are looking for volunteers who have fallen at least once in the past year and can attend regular sessions.

The study is being funded by the British Geriatrics Society (BGS).

We are evaluating computer-assisted exercise programmes to see if these are suitable and acceptable to the elderly population
Dr Marie Fraser
Woodend Hospital
The research will look at the effect of gentle exercises with the game's balance board.

The idea of came from Dr Alison Stewart, commercial research manager with NHS Grampian and an honorary research fellow at the University of Aberdeen.

She said: "When I was working in the University of Aberdeen's osteoporosis unit, my main aim was to prevent fractures.

A total of 90% of hip fractures are due to falls.

"As many older people have a problem with their balance, I wanted to investigate balance and initially I proposed using a piece of equipment that cost several thousand pounds."

She explained: "When no grants were forthcoming to pay for this equipment, I heard that the Wii Fit balance board might do exactly the same thing.

"I'm hoping this will be the case and that it will also provide our volunteers with the added value of being entertained at the same time."

Elderly people
It is hoped using the game could help older people with balance

The study will be carried out at Woodend Hospital.

Dr Marie Fraser, a specialist registrar at the hospital, said: "Falls are the most common cause of accidental injury in older people and the most common cause of accidental death in 75 year olds and over.

"The over 65s who live independently in the community fall at a rate of 30% a year, and this rises as they get older.

"Falls cause real problems both for the individual and for our population as a whole. As well as causing injury, they can lead to loss of confidence, a fear of falling, reduced quality of life and even early death. They also have a healthcare cost."

She said: "NHS Grampian's department of medicine for the elderly is working closely with colleagues at the University of Aberdeen to explore and develop innovative approaches to improving balance.

"We are evaluating the efficacy of computer-assisted exercise programmes to see if these are suitable and acceptable to the elderly population."

Volunteers, who should live in their own home or in sheltered housing in the Aberdeen area, would have an initial assessment by a physiotherapist. They can ring 01224 556789.

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