Video games target Japan's silver generation

2014-03-06 14:13
An elderly woman smiling with 88-year-old Saburo Sakamoto as they enjoy a game at Kaikaya, a nursing home. (Yoshikazu Tsuno, AFP)

An elderly woman smiling with 88-year-old Saburo Sakamoto as they enjoy a game at Kaikaya, a nursing home. (Yoshikazu Tsuno, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

kalahari.com

Yokohama - At a nursing home in suburban Tokyo, 88-year-old Saburo Sakamoto darts his fingers energetically to catch characters that appear on a touch screen in front of him.

Peals of laughter erupt from the other side of the room full of octogenarians as they wallop plastic alligators that appear from little holes or wield foam hammers to crush frogs as they pop up.

"The ladies here are very agile, so it's almost impossible for me to beat them", says Sakamoto as he catches his breath and watches several women easily outscore him on the game he is playing.

The nursing home is run by an offshoot of Namco Bandai, the company behind 1980s arcade phenomenon PacMan, whose pill-popping escapades helped bring video games to a mass youth market.

Now the firm is part of a small, but growing band of groups developing video games and home computer entertainment for the so-called "silver generation", Japan's burgeoning army of elderly people, who are living longer and healthier lives than ever before.

Japan's population has been declining since 2007 and the country is greying, with one of the world's lowest birth rates and highest life expectancies.

'Faces light up'

"We offer entertainment so that elderly people spend the whole day playing, having fun, and getting really exhausted before returning to their home", said Yoshiaki Kawamura, President of Kaikaya, the wholly-owned unit of Namco Bandai Holdings.

Day visitors, whose average age is 85, have a choice of activities at this government approved centre, including assisted bathing, physiotherapy, lunch and a series of arcade and video games.

"The video games are very much extra-curricular, voluntary activities but clients look very animated when they are playing", Kawamura said.

Facility staff try to motivate the elderly, tapping into their competitive spirits by posting leader boards on the walls and running competitions to see who is the "most vigorous" every few months.

Among the titles on offer is "Dokidoki Hebi Taiji II" (Thrilling Snakebuster II), a game developed by Namco Bandai in co-operation with Kyushu University Hospital in western Japan.

Like a life size version of Whack-a-Mole, a seated player stamps on cartoon-like snakes that pop up at random around him.

Developers say the motion strengthens legs and hip muscles, something doctors say is important to help prevent falls.

It also increases cerebral blood flows especially to the frontal lobe, which may help to slow the progress of cognitive impairment, says Kyushu University doctor Shinichiro Takasugi.

'Powerful tool'

In practice, "it is hard to get scientific proof of a particular game's positive effect because of factors from other exercises", said Kaikaya's musculoskeletal nurse Miyuki Takahashi.

"But the psychological effect is unarguable, people's faces light up when they play it."

Takasugi agrees that there are clearly mood-enhancing benefits to be had.

"The game is an effective tool to lighten up the souls of elderly people who tend to stay at home, withdrawing from social life", he said.

"It can also help keep them engaged with what can be boring rehab exercises."

Where video games have historically been sedentary and solitary, improving technology means controlling characters on a screen no longer needs to be done just by hitting keys or wobbling a joystick.

The same kit that allows young gamers to kick and punch their way through a beat-em-up is now being used to liven up monotonous rehabilitation.

Using the Kinect motion sensor, developed by Microsoft for its video game console Xbox, physical therapist Keizo Sato worked with two companies to devise game software specifically to help boost strength and suppleness.

Rehact, a contraction of the English words "rehabilitation" and "active" is intended to provide high-quality exercises for elderly people who might live in rural areas away from specialised medical facilities.

"The scarcity of people who can provide rehab training to elderly people in smaller cities and the cost of it are challenges for ageing Japan", said Sato, who lectures at Tohoku Fukushi University.

There are four games to choose from, each aimed at specific muscle groups, said Sato.

"But this software not only offers motivation to help people enjoy the exercises, but demonstrates the correct way to do them without the need for a therapist to be present", he said.

Osaka-based Medica Shuppan publisher last year released a similar game machine co-developed by Kyushu University researchers, while the same researchers are developing another one in a three-year programme funded by the government.

And Nintendo, the maker of the Donkey Kong and Super Mario franchises, said in late January it aims to reboot its business by entering the health care industry with "non-wearable" products.

Read more on:    japan  |  technology  |  gaming  |  health
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/World

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Up to 40% off fashion accessories

Save up to 40% on selected handbags, purses, watches, jewellery and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Save up to R2000 on top electronics

Get every day mind bowing savings on top electronics. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

As seen on TV - New book releases at only R199 each

Get mind blowing book savings on new titles. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Save up to 50% on Women’s month treats!

Celebrate the awesome women in your life with awesome treats like beauty products, fashion accessories, bestselling books, electronics and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 60% off - clearance sale!

Save up to 60% on appliances, books, electronics, toys, movies and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

There is an emphasis on work. There may be some restrictions, or delays or extra responsibilities. It is all about rhythm and...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.