The playful side of rehabilitation

The playful side of rehabilitation

This month’s issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter features an article on new approaches to rehabilitation made possible by advanced interactive game systems. Incorporating these recent game systems into fields such as occupational, physical and recreational therapy has added fun to the world of rehabilitation and that’s something most people would never expect.

I am a recreation therapist at a large retirement center. I’m fortunate to work at a time when recreational therapy options are becoming more exciting and engaging. With advancements in technology, specialized virtual game systems such as the Nintendo Wii are now being enjoyed by adults young and old. In my profession, I’ve seen these game systems make a profound impact on the lives of patients.

The people I work with have physical limitations that affect what they can do. A big part of my job is to help them find activities they can successfully take part in despite any functional limitations they may have. In the past, they may have enjoyed going out bowling or meeting with friends at the golf course for a round of 18 holes. With that in mind, I find myself using the Nintendo Wii often in my therapy sessions. It allows me to introduce people to a simulated version of their favorite sport. It’s also easy to adapt the Wii to a variety of functioning levels.

I’ve found these virtual game systems to be an excellent tool for someone who has an illness or a newly acquired physical or cognitive challenge. For example, a patient of mine had always enjoyed golfing. However, he had a heart attack and stroke that left him unable to walk or use his left arm. Although he had never used a Nintendo Wii, I showed him how it worked and taught him to swing the “club” from a seated position. He was hesitant at first, but with the realistic feel and excellent visual graphics on the video screen he was soon asking when we would play again. He was hooked!

I also worked with an older woman who had always enjoyed being in a bowling league. However, after a hip replacement she was no longer able to continue that pastime. I introduced her to the Nintendo Wii and suggested she give it a try. She learned how to line up the ball and position it accurately. She got very good at the game and said she was going to start a Wii league at her retirement community.

Technology and simulation games such as the Wii have provided therapists with new tools to use in rehabilitation. As a result, the people we work with have a new outlook on recreation. It’s exciting and rewarding to see what these advanced game system technologies can do for people who might otherwise give up on activities they’ve enjoyed in the past.
The playful side of rehabilitation