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Can Wii Balance? Evaluating a Stepping Game for Older Adults

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Decline in balance control is an issue for older adults as it leads to an increased risk of falling which may result in serious injury. Mitigating this risk may be achieved through balance training and exercise, but lack of adherence to an exercise program often occurs. Improvement in balance control may be difficult to quantify in an unbiased manner given the therapist providing the treatment also assesses the patient. We developed a gamified system using an off-the-shelf technology through an iterative feedback with therapists and clients to evaluate a response time during stepping as a measure of balance control. The game was designed using serious game strategies to increase participant engagement. This game included two Nintendo Wii balance boards between which the individual was required to step while the times were recorded. To provide evidence that the system could be used in a clinical environment, we conducted a cross-sectional study collecting data for five minutes at the beginning of a physiotherapy assessment. One hundred and four individuals older than 50 years of age were recruited who were able to step forward with or without an aid. The response time for a step using the system was negatively correlated to the Berg balance score.

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