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Why Nintendo nurtures people with Parkinson’s

A classic video game console has found a new audience in Australia’s aged care recipients!

<p>Physiotherapy classes have found a new way to engage attendees with a classic gaming experience. [Source: Supplied]</p>

Physiotherapy classes have found a new way to engage attendees with a classic gaming experience. [Source: Supplied]

Key points:

  • April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month
  • It’s estimated that approximately four people per 1,000 in Australia have Parkinson’s disease, with the incidence increasing to one in 100 over the age of 60
  • In Australia, approximately 219,000 people are living with Parkinson’s disease, with one in five of these people being diagnosed before the age of 50


The Nintendo Wii transformed the way that people play video games when it launched back in 2006. Still, the classic console has found a new home and a new audience — helping people with Parkinson’s disease maintain their mobility and composure.

To encourage and promote exercise for those with Parkinson’s disease, Resthaven Northern Community Services at Elizabeth, South Australia, holds two occupational therapist-run classes every Wednesday called ‘Keep Active with Parkinson’s.’

Resthaven Occupational Therapist Lachlan Adams said Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological condition that can affect people from all walks of life.

“We know that exercise can improve pain and stiffness, as well as encourage neuroplasticity and help with fatigue and energy levels,” Adams said.

“Our main goals are to help participants maintain a high level of function, improve their social engagement and maintain existing cognitive function.

“It’s also a chance to improve each participant’s understanding of how Parkinson’s affects their life and for them to maintain contact with a team of allied health professionals experienced in supporting self-management of the disease.”

Unlike traditional video game consoles, the Wii had a novel premise when it first debuted — players would experience gaming through physical activity, via a handheld controller, that would track a user’s motion and movement to facilitate gameplay.

As such, the focus on deliberate movement and dexterity became a viable option for balance exercises, cognitive challenges, fine motor tasks and neuroactive exercises. Participants have included Wii Fit exercise training in conjunction with traditional therapies.

Wii Fit was released in 2007 for the Wii video game console, featuring a variety of yoga, strength training, aerobics and balance mini-games for use with the Wii Balance Board device.

“We have the Wii Fit game and balance board here for clients to use,” Lachlan added.

“There is some evidence that utilising Wii Fit exercise training alongside traditional therapies produces improvement in coordination, balance and fatigue. I have found most clients really enjoy using the Wii and trying to beat their best scores.

“It creates a nice competitive challenge for them that generally brings out their best.

“Clients keep coming back to the sessions because the environment is fun and we promote social engagement.

“We encourage people to work towards a common goal with friends and to keep active with Parkinson’s.”

Other occupational therapist-led exercise groups run by Resthaven Northern Community Services include ‘Keep Fit’ at Elizabeth; ‘Falls and Balance’ and ‘Fitball Drumming’ groups in Gawler.

Physiotherapist-led classes for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are held on Tuesdays and Fridays and ‘Falls and Balance’ and ‘Hydrotherapy’ classes are held on Thursday mornings and Thursday afternoons, respectively.

Resthaven can facilitate a referral to the service via My Aged Care, with services provided throughout metropolitan Adelaide, the Adelaide Hills, Murraylands, Riverland, Fleurieu Peninsula, lower Barossa region and the Limestone Coast of South Australia.

A diagnosis of Parkinson’s in a person under the age of 50 is considered early-onset, which is rather rare and makes up one in five cases, with one in 100 people over the age of 60 receiving a diagnosis in Australia.

Parkinson’s disease is not a disability that prevents movement, but a disability of coordinating movement, meaning that a healthy and active lifestyle can be beneficial for those with the condition.


Do you believe that video games should be included in aged care facilities and their activities? Let us know your thoughts on social media and subscribe to the newsletter for more information, news and industry updates.


Related content:

Your guide to Parkinson’s disease

How to maintain and improve mobility and reduce falls

What is My Aged Care?

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