Seniors take on virtual challenges for research

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Seniors take on virtual challenges for research


Vaughan Nicholson and Margaret Clowes

15 May 2012

15 May 2012

A group of seniors are alpine skiing and tightrope walking in the comfort of their own homes as part of a research project on balance being undertaken by the University of the Sunshine Coast.

PhD student Vaughan Nicholson, who is a qualified physiotherapist, is examining whether the coordination and balance for people aged over 55 can be improved by completing virtual balance exercises on a popular video game.

The research project is supported by the Australian Fitness Network.

Mr Nicholson said laboratory testing of participants from Lend Lease’s Hibiscus Bellflower Retirement Resort and Hibiscus Chancellor Park began recently.

“The average age of the participants is early 70s,” Mr Nicholson said.

“We are trying to determine if taking part in this popular balance program improves several clinical and laboratory-based measures of balance and mobility.

“Those measures then have a relatively direct relationship to predicting falls.”

Mr Nicholson said participants were required to complete three 30-minute sessions a week, over a six-week period, at their respective retirement villages.

“They have nine balance games to select from, including tight rope walking and ski slalom, and they will have to adjust their body positions on the balance platform to navigate through the games,” he said.

“We’ll also look at the enjoyment they gain by playing these games because one of the protocols is that they have to do the gaming with at least one other person.”

Mr Nicolson said research had already shown that the games were effective for rehabilitation, but his project would be the first of its kind to examine the potential benefits of the game on healthy, independent older adults.

“If we get positive results from this study, then there is no reason why the balance games shouldn’t be incorporated into activities at retirement villages supporting independent living.”

— Michelle Widdicombe

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