Lifestyle

For physical therapy, Federal Way nursing homes embrace Nintendo Wii

Shirley Holmen, 87, performs physical therapy exercises July 6 at Hallmark Manor. The facility uses the Nintendo Wii gaming console to engage patients in their recovery. Holmen is shown working on building strength in her legs. She also works her rotator cuff by playing Wii bowling. The game requires participants to mirror real-life movements to roll the ball down the alley. The game
Shirley Holmen, 87, performs physical therapy exercises July 6 at Hallmark Manor. The facility uses the Nintendo Wii gaming console to engage patients in their recovery. Holmen is shown working on building strength in her legs. She also works her rotator cuff by playing Wii bowling. The game requires participants to mirror real-life movements to roll the ball down the alley. The game's controller is held in Holmen's hand.
— image credit: Jacinda Howard/The Mirror

Patients at Hallmark Manor and other local nursing homes are reuniting with their inner child as they complete therapy programs.

Several of the clients play the Nintendo Wii. The video game console is implemented as a way to help patients with their physical therapy. The gaming system keeps patients engaged in their recovery and mixes work and fun, said Karen St. Charles, Hallmark Manor rehabilitation services manager. It also comes at a cost more affordable than other therapy equipment, she said.

"The positive aspects to the Wii is it engages the patients a little more and makes them an active participant (in their rehabilitation)," she said.

The gaming console is a hit among patients. They gather in an open area with a television for the experience. Wii has become so popular that in-house tournaments take place. Hallmark Manor and Foundation House, another nursing facility, also face off periodically to see which house is the reigning Wii champion. Several clients contemplate purchasing a Wii for home use, St. Charles said.

Wii replaces a $19,000 machine

The majority of the home's clients are there temporarily. They've come directly from a hospital and need a temporary place to regain strength and balance before they return home or to a permanent living facility, St. Charles said. Most of them participate in therapy while at Hallmark Manor. The goal is to condition clients to stand, balance and perform physical activities on their own for a minimum of 20 minutes in preparation for them to depart the nursing home, St. Charles said.

A year ago, Hallmark Manor integrated the Wii into its clients' therapy sessions. Residents now bowl and play all the Wii Fit games, with the exception of yoga, St. Charles said.

The system is also used to measure a patient's balance. It replaced a $19,000 machine that basically gives the same feedback, St. Charles said. The Wii measures balance and a participant's center of gravity. It presents the information in a visual form that allows one to track improvement. The system is used in conjunction with other exercises and equipment, St. Charles said.

The gaming system is also used in speech and occupational therapy, she said. Patients are encouraged to create a personalized character, which is depicted on the television screen as the participant plays the games. Creating a character, also known as a Mii, strengthens a patient's critical thinking and thought process skills, St. Charles said.

Shirley Holmen, 87, has spent the past few weeks at Hallmark Manor. She fell and fractured her hip. Years ago, she injured her rotator cuff, located in the shoulder area, in another fall. Holmen is now participating in physical therapy to restore strength to both areas. She completes therapy exercises six days a week.

As a former member of a bowling league, she enjoys Wii Fit's bowling game and prefers to stand and bowl, rather than stand for minutes on end at the home's parallel bars. Giving the Wii a try took a bit of convincing from Holmen's physical therapist, Shirlee Yeager. Holmen had seen her granddaughter play Wii, but never thought to give it a try.

"It's good for her," Holmen said. "Now I can see it's good for me too."

Now Holmen enjoys it, and is even thinking of buying a Wii console to use at home once she is able to leave Hallmark Manor. The physical therapy Holmen undergoes at the nursing home has helped her shoulder. The movements required for Wii bowling are more realistic and dynamic than individual exercises, Yeager said. The console requires players to complete combinations of movements that occur in everyday life, she said.

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