Wardipedia – 24. Wii and other game consoles

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Ge-Wii-atrics, Wii-habilitation… It’s not just the kids who are getting down with Nintendo Wii.

Lots of wards now have Nintendo Wii machines, providing patients (and their visitors) with a delightful choice of entertainment, physical exercise and mental stimulation. One of the reasons why Wii is so great is that it can be used by people who have significant physical, sensory, emotional and/or cognitive impairments. With the fab Wii Music, for example, you can conduct a whole orchestra in a delightful rendition of the Four Seasons just by waving the remote control around and however quirkily or erratically this happens, it sounds beautiful.

We strongly recommend that all wards have a Wii console (or a similar alternative like an Xbox 360). Even wards for elderly people with dementia will have some patients (and many visitors!) who will enjoy at least some of the huge variety of activities, even if it is sitting alongside a member of staff who provides a running commentary of what’s happening. There’s intriguing research showing how using the Wii fitness board can improve balance in elderly people and reduce injuries from falls – producing the inspired term Wii-habilitation. Ideally, each patient who wants to can be helped to create their own profile and programme on Wii fit.

Lots of patients (and staff and visitors) will have a Wii at home or enjoy floating/gokarting etc at friends’ house. Pleasurable experience using Wii in hospital could encourage (those who can afford it) to continue playing on a Wii when back home.

There’s interesting research around, about the benefits of Wii to ‘non-traditional’ groups (i.e. beyond teenagers slumped on couches.) It’s clear that elderly people can enjoy and even improve their health through playing on the Wii.

Ward examples

  • The Wii is great for both individual and group use. We have regular ward contests and tournaments – mostly bowling. Great fun for all involved and a sense of achievement for the winner. We make a bit of a thing about our contests – it gives patients something to look forward to. If lack of funding is an issue, second hand Wii games and accessories can be picked up at a good price. You can get so much out of a Wii as there are so many different games.
  • We have found the Wii Fit units offer a perfect exercise solution for our older service users. The various exercise programmes help improve service users’ balance, coordination, stamina and energy. It also exercises their short term memories and hand-eye coordination, to give them a gentle physical and mental workout within a social and supportive environment. You can see the difference in the service users after they have had a session on the Wii Fit. They are positively glowing! At the moment, the Wii Sport game is a favourite amongst the service users.
  • One Trust has introduced popular Wii Fit units to help older people patients improve their physical and mental wellbeing, and reverse the age-old preconception that elderly people and technology do not mix.
  • Healthcare professionals are using interactive games to encourage older service users with a range of cognitive disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, to become increasingly involved in physical activity, with encouraging results. The team are basing their work on the well established relationship between physical and mental wellbeing; the more you participate in physical activity, the better your overall mental wellbeing.
  • There are similar alternatives to the Wii, like the Xbox 360 which does not use controllers but your body and can be used in similar ways to the Wii.

Patient examples

  • I made a funny friend and we enjoyed drawing pictures in the art room and playing bowling on the Nintendo Wii.
  • There was an activity room with a Play Station and Wii fit. Also comfy bean bags and lots of board games. There was also games and things locked away which I found out you could ask staff to get out.

Resources & references

Although the standard ‘Wii Sport’ package usually goes down a treat, there’s loads of other games available:

  • Action and adventure
  • Board and card games
  • Brain exercises
  • Driving
  • Flight
  • Party
  • Puzzle
  • Racing
  • Simulation
  • Sports
  • Trivia / Game Show


Categories: Activities, Wardipedia