Iowa State researchers to utilize Wii as exercise method for the elderly

Molly Halferty

The College of Human Sciences will soon begin training for a new research extension that will start the spring semester of 2011. This study is linked to the Living Well through Intergenerational Fitness and Exercise program, which is meant to help the well-being and activity of elderly adults.

This project will use young adults 16 and older to pass on their knowledge of using a Wii for exercise onto elderly adults. The training will be on-site in nearby towns and also nearby rural areas. This is offered to students as a volunteer opportunity and also will be an independent study course, Geron 490, in the spring semester.

“You don’t have to be a part of the major to do the program, anyone who’s interested can,” said Sarah Francis, assistant professor in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition.

The first day of training is Dec. 4 in the ISU 4-H Youth Building, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. This training will help familiarize young adults with the Wii, making them better equipped to train the elderly adults. The project is separated into three phases that will take place in various locations.

Francis is a leading faculty member for this research. She believes the research is important because of the age group’s rising population.

“Older adults are the fastest growing population in the country, especially in Iowa,” Francis said.

She views it as a two-part study for both the young adults and the elderly to increase knowledge of aging and lessen stereotypes associated with aging.

Kara Strand, graduate in nutritional sciences, will also be helping out. Strand will be helping prepare the December workshop, viewing the data collected and writing her thesis on this research.

“[The project] will get elderly more active and give them something to be excited about, the Wii is an easy way to do that,” Strand said.

There will be six or seven sites the young adult participants will go to for training the elderly using both the Wii and Wii Active. They will teach elderly adults how to use the Wii for exercise and attempt to eliminate the risk of harm or injury.

“Just because you’re age 60 plus doesn’t mean you have to be inactive,” Francis said.

For a college student, it will be time intensive. Young people will be going on-site twice a week, for eight weeks during this project. It is a good opportunity for volunteer work that could give students an edge, Francis said.

“It will be a lot of fun and a great opportunity to work with older adults,” said Strand. “You get to play the Wii and interact with an older generation, plus you get credit for it. You can be a part of a change that could happen, and you’re making it happen.”

For busier students that are interested there is a possibility of having some later afternoon and summer times made available, Francis said.

Two goals of this study are to create a better understanding for young people about aging and the elderly, and to get the elderly more active in their daily lives.

“Both generations are valuable,” Francis said.