Date of Award:

5-2013

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Special Education and Rehabilitation

Advisor/Chair:

Judith M. Holt

Abstract

Seniors are a growing segment of the population of the United States. By 2030 they will make up nearly 20% of the general population. Senior citizens face many health challenges as they age. Injury due to falling is a major concern for many in this age group. Research shows that approximately one third of seniors will fall each year. Injuries that result from falls have been identified as the number one cause of accidental death in this age group each year. While falls have been studied by researchers for a number of years, and some progress has been made in finding ways to improve balance in seniors, the high incidence of falls continues to plague this demographic. Many of the current treatments to improve balance are too expensive, not accessible, or not motivating for seniors. This research project explored the effect of using a readily available video-game system to address these barriers. The Wii Fit gaming system was used with participants three times each week for 30 minutes and the resulting changes were documented. The Berg Balance Scale and Timed Up and Go test, both frequently used by professionals to assess balance in seniors, were used to document balance change. Every participant showed improvement. The Activities-specific Balance Confidence scale, which is used to measure a person's fear of falling, was also used to assess the participant's confidence in their balance as well as the level of fear associated with falling. The results of this test were positive but not to the extent of the balance tests. Finally, each participant was interviewed to assess how easy to use the participants felt the Wii Fit was as well as the motivational qualities of the Wii Fit as a balance tool. Answers given by the participants in the interview were generally positive. These results indicate that the Wii Fit gaming system may be beneficial for improving balance in seniors.

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