Andy Dean

Could gaming grannies stay healthy longer?

EXERCISE-based video games are usually the domain of youngsters.

But a new study by two Sunshine Coast academics will investigate how to incorporate them into a health regime to help older people stay in their homes for longer.

University of the Sunshine Coast Associate Professor of Neuropsychology and Mental Health, Mathew Summers, and Professor of Disruptive Technologies Stuart Smith will use a $496,000 National Health and Medical Research Council grant to study frailty in people aged over 65, with a larger, global research project.

USC is the only Australian university member of a consortium involving 15 other institutions across Europe, Korea and Japan that are conducting a multimillion-dollar European Commission Horizon 2020-funded project "My-AHA: My Active and Healthy Ageing".

The Sunshine Coast academics plan to use 50 older local residents in their study, to try to reduce the problems of aging populations and skyrocketing health care costs.

Prof Smith will focus on adapting everyday technologies, such as smart phones, sensor devices, mobile platforms and gaming consoles.

"We won't go too high-tech because we want people to be using these things in their own homes," he said.

"The technology will be designed to monitor their health and keep them engaged in healthy behaviours.

"One example is exercise-based video games, which can encourage older adults to engage in physical and mental activity in the comfort of their homes.

"Games are a really good vehicle for delivering physical and cognitive interventions.

"If people continue to interact with these technologies, we might be able to identify changes in their health before serious events occur, such as a fall."

Dr Summers, who specialises in assessing disorders of brain function and dementia, said the Sunshine Coast had the largest proportion of older people in Australia and a shortage of aged care facilities, which made it perfect for the trial.

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