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November 27, 2013

Baycrest client, Roy Battersby, may be in a wheelchair and have the use of just one hand but that doesn’t stop him from enjoying sports using a Wii, the latest video game system from Nintendo. Once a week, he goes head to head with 7 West recreation therapist, Elizabeth Floyd, in a game of tennis, baseball, or bowling. Although lobbing a ball overhand may be unrealistic for Roy, he can still have a good game of tennis by participating in virtual sports.

The Wii (pronounced as the English pronoun we), is an award-winning console which aims to target a broader demographic than just children and teens and has designed programs with parents and even grandparents in mind. A distinguishing feature of the console is its wireless controller, the Wii Remote, which can be used as a handheld pointing device and detect movement in three dimensions.

Rather than sitting and pressing buttons with your fingers and thumbs, the Wii gets you off the couch and moving your muscles through a variety of activities as you simulate swinging a bat or racket or throwing a ball or even a fishing line. For Elizabeth, it is not just a toy, but a novel way to engage some of Baycrest’s clients.

Elizabeth decided to buy the game console for herself – she had grown up on video games and thought it would be fun to use with her friends, but soon realized that it could be a unique tool to use with her clients. “I thought of my own grandfather and felt that I could play with him to bring more activity into his life, and then realized that some of our own clients may be able to benefit from it as well,” says Elizabeth. She brings it in every Tuesday to use with two clients.

The use of the Wii promotes the use of fine motor and gross motor skills and enables one-to-one therapy that brings a multitude of benefits to the client – it is a social activity as well as a physical and mental activity. Elizabeth confesses that when she first approached Roy to try out the Wii, he wasn’t convienced this was a good idea.Then he tried it and fell in love with it, impressed with the three dimensional graphics and the way it allowed him to incorporate activity – and some fun – back into his life. “It takes his mind off everything else,” Elizabeth adds. While we play, Roy is completely engrossed in the game. It really brings him a sense of accomplishment.

Playing Wii with Baycrest clients is also a perfect example of thinking outside the box to bring therapeutic recreation to a different level, Elizabeth points out. Since she recently joined Baycrest as a permanent staff member, she wanted to do more than just the typical music or discussion programs. “Therapeutic recreation is not just about Bingo and bowling,” she explains, “it is also an opportunity to explore what else we can do to connect with our clients.”

She thinks that balance games like the Wii Fit – a system of games and activities which individuals can use for a balance-focused workout and coordination games like Cooking Mama – where the player has to follow a recipe, slice meat, chop vegetables, flip food in pans, and arrange the final items on the plate – could be other programs suitable for Baycrest clients. “The Wii is also a great tool to find out what clients did in the past – a way to connect back if they were athletic, interested in certain sports or games, hobbies, cooking etc,” adds Elizabeth.

“When people think geriatrics, the words that come to mind are usually ‘old’ and ‘frail.’ When they hear that older persons can engage in an activity thought of for a younger generation, it shows that they still have a quality of life, that they can still do things and be open to trying something new,” she concludes.

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