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Using Commercial Video Games for Falls Prevention in Older Adults: The Way for the Future?

Pietrzak, Eva PhD; Cotea, Cristina BSc (Hons), LCDR; Pullman, Stephen RAN

Journal of Geriatric Physical Therapy: October/December 2014 - Volume 37 - Issue 4 - p 166–177
doi: 10.1519/JPT.0b013e3182abe76e
Systematic Reviews

Background and Purpose: Falls in older adults are an increasingly costly public health issue. There are many fall prevention strategies that are effective. However, with an increasing population of older people and ever-decreasing availability of health practitioners and health funding, novel modes of intervention are being developed, including those relying on computer technologies.

The aim of this article was to review the literature on the use of exergaming to prevent falls in older adult persons living in the community.

Methods: The Cochrane, Medline, and Embase databases were searched using prespecified search terms. To be included, studies had to investigate the effect of using commercially available consoles and video games on outcome measures such as a decrease in falls, improvements in balance control or gait parameters, decreased fear of falling, and attitude to exercise in older adult persons living in the community. All study designs with the exception of single-person case studies were included. Articles had to be published in peer-reviewed journals in the English language.

Results: Nineteen studies fulfilled the inclusion criteria. The following outcomes were observed: (1) using computer-based virtual reality gaming for balance training in older adults was feasible; (2) the majority of studies showed a positive effect of exergaming on balance control; (3) some studies showed a positive effect on balance confidence and gait parameters; (4) the effect was seen across the age and sex spectrum of older adults, including those with and without balance impairment.

Conclusions: There is as yet no evidence that using virtual reality games will prevent falls, but there is an indication that their use in balance training may improve balance control, which in turn may lead to falls prevention.

Centre for Military and Veterans' Health, Research Coordination Unit, Mayne Medical School, The University of Queensland, Herston, Queensland, Australia.

Address correspondence to: Stephen Pullman, RAN, Centre for Military and Veterans' Health, Research Coordination Unit, Mayne Medical School, Herston Rd, The University of Queensland, Herston, Queensland 4006, Australia (s.pullman@uq.edu.au)

This review was undertaken on behalf of and funded by the E-Health Research Unit, UQ Node, CMVH.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Decision Editor: Kevin Chui

© 2014 Academy of Geriatric Physical Therapy, APTA