Microsoft helps seniors stay well with Kinect, HealthVault

Microsoft has combined two of its technologies, Xbox 360 Kinect and the HealthVault online platform, to help seniors take better care of themselves at Los Angeles senior centers. Following a successful pilot by Microsoft, the Los Angeles Department of Aging, Partners in Care Foundation and St. Barnabas Senior Services, the Exergamers Wellness Club, as the project is known, is being expanded to all of the 16 senior centers in the Los Angeles Department of Aging's service area.

The 34 seniors in the Wellness Club pilot are using Kinect to make exercise more fun. For example, they play virtual bowling games with people at other sites in Los Angeles and New York, and they can dance along with Kinect hip hop, salsa and disco workout programs.

This is not Kinect's first entry into the healthcare market. The interactive gaming technology has also proved useful in viewing images during surgery and in group counseling sessions, as FierceMobileHealthcare recently reported.

The Wellness Club participants use HealthVault to store and view their medical information in  personal health records (PHRs). Through Partners in Care, participating seniors also receive education in diabetes self-care, nutrition, pain management and the importance of physical activity, according to a Microsoft announcement.

A geriatric health management application that is integrated with HealthVault helps Wellness Club members monitor their chronic conditions and track their progress over time. Developed by a company named Get Real Consulting, the app allows the seniors to upload readings from monitoring devices such as blood pressure cuffs and glucose meters to HealthVault, the company says.

Providers can also use this application to monitor geriatric health indicators such as diabetes, depression, memory function, vision, hearing, flexibility and strength.

June Simmons, CEO of the Partners in Care Foundation, says in the announcement that the technology component of the Wellness Club has added an important element to the health screenings and educational programs that her organization conducts with seniors in Los Angeles. While no outcomes data are available, she notes that participation in the club has increased and almost nobody has dropped out.

Except for the virtual bowling league, the Exergamers Wellness Club is not really part of the online social gaming trend. Still, it is a social use of technology for fitness purposes. Perhaps this is how seniors who are not very web-savvy will do social gaming to stay well.

To learn more:
- read the Miscrosoft announcement
- check out this InformationWeek Healthcare piece on social gaming

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