Seniors May Battle Depression with “Exergames”

Depression affects a significant number of senior citizens, and can become a debilitating problem as desire to socialize and spend time participating in favorite activities or obtain adequate exposure to sunlight may wane. Helping seniors take control of their symptoms through a number of treatments, especially psychotherapy, has been a major goal for health professionals in many fields for some time, and the suggestion that the elderly take advantage of the psychological benefits of exercise has become especially prominent. Yet summoning the motivation and energy to start and maintain a personal exercise program can be difficult –especially for people grappling with thoughts and feelings of depression. In light of this challenge, recent research performed at the Sam and Rose Stein Institute for Research on Aging at the San Diego campus of the University of California has uncovered a potential breakthrough for improving the psychological well-being of the elderly.

The study involved a small group of seniors, some of whom were indicated as having symptoms of Subsyndromal Depression, or SSD. The participants were introduced to so-called “exergames,” which involved playing exercise-oriented video games on a Nintendo Wii unit. Games included tennis, bowling, and other familiar activities, and engaged participants by requiring them to use a wireless remote to mimic the movements of the chosen activity. Many participants reported enjoying the games, and the affects on SSD symptoms were dramatic. Over a third of the seniors had at least a fifty percent reduction of their measured symptoms of depression after engaging in fairly short sessions three times per week.

The researchers note that a larger sample group size and the use of control groups should be incorporated into any subsequent studies on the benefits of these specific types of games, but welcome the work’s potential implications for improving the well-being of seniors who may otherwise be reluctant to participate in exercise-related treatments.

© Copyright 2010 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Calista

    Calista

    February 28th, 2010 at 1:24 PM

    My grandmother lived with us for years and always loved playing our video games with us. Granted they were not as advanced as the Wii system of today but my brother and I still laugh about coming home from school and finding her playing on the original nintendo and being in all of our Mario and Tetris games. This always made her day and I am sure that the seniors of today are enjoying the same kinds of things but with even more advanced activities.

  • Layla

    Layla

    February 28th, 2010 at 4:41 PM

    The main reasons for seniors to have all the problems that they are generally associated with is not just aging, but also other things like seclusion and reduction in social gatherings and fun-filled activites and also physical activities. Now if this kind of a thing is introduced in their daily routine, it is no surprise that improvements were observed at the end of the study.

  • M P

    M P

    March 1st, 2010 at 1:24 PM

    The Wii is a great device and can entice the young and old alike…it has now become almost like an indoor gym for many families. Although it may not be as beneficial as the real thing, it sure is the most ‘fun’ way to help your body physically and to exercise to keep yourself fit.

  • Pauline

    Pauline

    March 1st, 2010 at 2:09 PM

    I swear that exercise is a cure all.

  • Weasley O.

    Weasley O.

    March 1st, 2010 at 6:54 PM

    this might well be the future of therapy..what with so much of fun in it and the gaming thing catching on with so many people all over… of course it is a lot better than boring therapy session that people definitely do not look forward to.

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