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Communications of the ACM


Playing at Health

Metia Interactive managing director Maru Nihoniho

Metia Interactive managing director Maru Nihoniho demonstrating the SPARX video game, which teaches teenagers how to deal with feeling depressed or stressed.

Credit: Neil Sands / AFP / Getty Images

Patricia Kahlbaugh's dad was an avid tennis player in his day, but after he lost his leg to diabetes, he was sidelined permanently. Once his family bought him a Wii, however, he would spend hours playing the virtual version of the game, and seemed engaged in the device's imagined universe.

That sparked Kahlbaugh, an associate professor of psychology at Southern Connecticut State University, to wonder whether playing such "exergames" could benefit the elderly beyond such obvious gains as providing exercise. She recruited 35 people with an average age of 82 from independent living elderly housing in the New Haven area and divided them into three groups. One group was assigned to play a Wii game of their choice for one hour a week with a graduate student; the second spent an hour a week watching television with a student; the third watched TV by themselves.


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