Wii by Nintendo: An Effective Way For Elders To Exercise and Have Fun

By Jack Halpern, CEO, My Elder

Part of elder care is ensuring seniors are getting enough physical exercise, and using Wii is one great way to do this.


As I travel across the country visiting with my clients in Nursing Homes and other long-term care facilities, I find that a majority of our nursing home residents aren’t getting the proper exercise to help them maintain mobility and their health.

As you may be aware, at least 70% of our elders enter a nursing home because they require physical rehabilitation after a fall or stroke. They spend a brief time in the hospital and are quickly sent (some too quickly) to a rehabilitation center that most of the time is a nursing home.

The goal of physical therapy is to restore, maintain, or promote optimal physical function. While physical therapy involves exercise, it’s a short-term program. Once a resident completes their short-term physical therapy program, they go on a maintenance program that includes exercise, but does not require a professional to administer. These programs require nurse’s aides to perform some minimal exercise like walking and stretching. Unfortunately, with severe staff shortages at most nursing homes, these maintenance programs are not carried out. No one is doing them.

A few years ago Nintendo introduced the world to Wii (pronounced WE), a home video game console. The Wii emulates the motion of real sports. Playing a Wii tennis game involves swinging the controller as if it were an actual racket. Although Wii Sports features cartoon-like graphics and characters—imagery normally aimed at children—the elders are absolutely taken with the realism offered by the Wii Remote.

“I’ve never been into video games, but this is addictive,” a 70-year-old client of mine told me. She tells how, when her grandkids come to visit on Saturday afternoons, they play the games together.

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For elderly people, Wii can be a health provider and a friend to workout with to improve agility. The interactivity that Wii provides can ease loneliness and help physically challenged seniors or accident victims gain strength and mobility. Senior citizens can trust and have fun using the many programs available within Wii fitness without the worry of harmful effects or painful accidents.

Physical therapy is another area in which Wii can be a valuable tool by incorporating some or all of the available exercises into a physical therapy routine. You can monitor your progress without damaging injured muscles and joints, gaining improvement and strengthen to the targeted areas. Researchers in San Diego now say their studies prove that Wii games can combat the onset of depression in elderly persons.

I am proud to say that My Elder has introduced Wii to many of our clients with great success. We have also introduced Wii to many nursing homes that have incorporated it into their exercise and recreation programs. They have also found that Dementia and Alzheimer’s residents have benefitted from using Wii.

To see Wii in the nursing home, check these out links:

My Elder provides elder advocacy services to families. Talk to us about long-term planning, finding the right home for your loved ones, preventing crisis and abuse, and ensuring they receive the best care possible.