Five years ago, the Nintendo Wii was touted as the new "it" thing for improving seniors' health--bowling leagues sprang up in nursing homes, and physical therapists "prescribed" Wii yoga programs to their older patients.
Today, though, clinicians may find the iPads they are carrying around are the best new tool for helping elderly patients improve mobility, engagement and even reduce the symptoms of Alzhiemers' or stroke, reports the Orlando Sentinel. For hospitals, the value may be more in keeping older patient engaged during inpatient stays, and improving their compliance, mobility and health at home to prevent re-admissions after discharge.
"It came to us as a happy accident," Judy Skilton, director of Florida nursing home Health Central Park, tells the Cult of Mac blog. "What started out as one resident's curiosity about...an iPhone turned into something that is helping them spell, track items, make choices and read words. It's amazing."
The big advantage of tablets is for seniors who aren't mobile or flexible enough to use the remote control devices on video game consoles. The swipe, tap and slide functionality of the iPad allows elderly patients who can't pick up a checker piece to still play the game, according to the Sentinel.
Clinicians at the Health Central Park nursing home in Florida have been using the devices with residents for months, and have found improved patient engagement, mobility and dexterity are rising, among other positive results. The iPad's large touch screen helps re-eduate stroke and dementia patients through puzzles and games, nursing home officials tell the Sentinel.
Wake Forest University in North Carolina is gaining some clinical proof of that concept via a National Institutes of Health-funded study ongoing now. Exercise-science professors Tony Marsh and Jack Rejeski are testing their newly developed Mobility Assessment Tool (MAT) for the iPad. The app shows videos of animated figures performing activities of daily living such as climbing stairs, and help patients picture themselves doing these tasks, and even mimic the pictured behaviors.