Kotaku owen@kotaku.com

The benefits of the Wii and exergaming to patients in hospitals and elder-care facilities has been discussed nearly since the console’s release. Researchers in San Diego now say that Wii games can combat the onset of depression in elderly persons.

A pilot study involving 19 subjects with subsyndromal depression – not full blown depression, but much more common, and more associated with functional disability and long-term hospitaliztion – found that participating in Wii games assisted with their symptoms. This is important because, while longer-term studies have shown that physical activity can abate one’s depression, fewer than five percent of older adults are actually capable of such activity.

But playing the Wii, more than a third of the participants had a reduction of depressive symptoms greater than 50 percent. And many saw a significant improvement in their mental health-related quality of life and increased cognitive stimulation.

Speaking as someone with a grandparent in an intensive assisted-living home, I can speak firsthand of the daily concern and empathy one feels for an elderly person who needs meaningful occupation or stimulation throughout the day, just as much as any adult 50 years their junior. When someone – especially someone with a lifelong love of learning – is cognizant but has difficulty seeing; and still curious but hard of hearing, giving them books or DVDs or CDs about even their favorite subjects isn’t as useful as much as it is a reminder of what they can’t do, and may not ever recover.

The victories provided by video game alternatives may not be meaningful in a developmental or intellectual sense, but they can be something different, and something to look forward to. My grandfather politely declined to play the Wii at his retirement community, and now, haggling with him to try it might be a bridge too far. I do wish he’d tried it though. Knowing what I do of his physical and occupational therapy, it’s just as goal-oriented, physical in nature, and capable of reward.

Video Games May Help Combat Depression in Older Adults [Science Daily via Game Politics]

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