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A videogame that helps rehabilitate elders

January 31, 2007 16:23 IST

Researchers have developed a device based on the videogame -- "Whack-A-Mole" -- that they believe will help senior citizens who have lost their physical coordination.

The new gadget, invented by Kyushu University and game machine maker Namco Ltd and marketed in December, is an exclusive pastime apparatus designed for the elderly in which the players stomp on snake heads popping up in rapid succession on the floor and try to outscore others in play, KYODO news agency reported.

The device helps players to invigorate their brains as they use their toes and muscles in their thighs while playing the game, researchers say. The objective is to enable elders who have lost some of their physical mobility to enjoy moving their bodies and restore body movement functions.

Shinichiro Takasugi, an instructor in the rehabilitation department at Kyushu University Hospital, initially set up a "Whack-a-Crocodile" machine in the Chojano Mori day-care center in Hachinohe, Aomori Prefecture, in 2000.

He divided those who came to the center for rehabilitation into two groups -- one which used the game machine and the one which did not -- and measured their functionality in body movements for a year.

Takasugi said members of the group who used the machine began demonstrating their superiority and agility over those who did not around the eighth month after they started playing it.

He concluded that the users got themselves in shape in the sense of balance and reflexes since they had to stretch their arms and quickly strike the pop-up crocodiles on the head with a mallet while bending forward.