Yes Wii Can: This is Not Your Grandparents' Video Game – Then Again, Maybe it is
BIG RAPIDS - On a recent afternoon
at the Metron skilled nursing facility in Big Rapids, several residents
sitting in wheelchairs or leaning on walkers were playing video bowling
using a Wii console. Ferris students supervised, letting the players
roll their virtual bowling balls down the cyber-lanes while helping with
technical issues only when needed.
The activity stems from a Ferris Foundation Exceptional Merit Grant, “Promoting Healthy Aging through Interactive Technologies,” awarded
to Social Work professor Michael Berghoef. The grant is designed to
help promote both physical and cognitive health among the elderly.
Judging by a collective groan when a bowler rolls a split, it’s working.
idea was clever, but I didn’t imagine it would work this well and have
pretty much all the intended effects right away,” says Berghoef of the
project informally dubbed by students “Wii Can Help!” “These are people
who would otherwise have been in their rooms or maybe passively watching
television – and they were pretty rowdy. It kind of had the camaraderie
of an actual bowling alley.”
use of such interactive technology is in line with a shift of focus in
care for the aging toward active, community-based services. With an
anticipated 1 in 6 Americans being elderly by the year 2020, the need
for social workers versed in the newest trends in gerontology is great.
While this is a huge societal challenge, it is also offers new career
possibilities for students who recognize the need and have the skills to
meet the challenge.
a huge need for adequately trained workers in the field of
gerontology,” says Berghoef. “The need far exceeds the number of workers
who will be ready for a graying America. The default position for many
students is that they want to work with kids. It’s not that they don’t
want to work with older adults – they just haven’t thought of it. This
grant puts that option out there early on.”
also notes that the experience of working with an aging population is
important preparation even for those who may work with a younger
clientele. “A lot of kids have a grandparent as their primary caregiver.
Aging is an issue that is going to present itself, so students need to
students are involved in the very hands-on grant just as it was Ferris
students in gerontology field placements who brought the idea of trying
to find funding for the project forward to the Phi Alpha Social Work
Honor Society, and ultimately to Berghoef, who suggested submitting an
Exceptional Merit Grant proposal. With Berghoef helping to coordinate
the effort, students wrote the grant collaboratively on-line using
Google Documents, each student taking responsibility for an area of the
grant to research and write. The academic rigor that was exercised also
extends to quantifying the benefits of an activity that so far has had
glowing, but mostly anecdotal, reviews.
is a great research opportunity, which we are exploring. There hasn’t
been a lot of formal research done – so we’re building on informal
research. We want to do something that students think is valid. I’ve
been asking them what aspect of this they think would be compelling,”
Berghoef says. “Such research will help to establish the efficacy of
making other assistive technology –especially on-line information
technology – more accessible to older adults.”
addition to the electronic activities, the grant provides for purchase a
variety of more traditional, low-tech games such as cribbage, Scrabble
and Yahtzee that involve counting and strategy which promote cognitive
thinking and social development. However, judging from the response of
the Metron residents using the Wii’s controller to knock down virtual
pins, the world of gaming as experienced though one of its most
user-friendly interfaces is going to be the biggest crowd-pleaser in the
grant’s array of fun and engaging pastimes.
“I wish I could have bottled that experience,” Berghoef says of the Wii’s Metron debut. “It was really heartwarming.”
08 April, 2010