Video Games And The NBN Will Stop Gran Breaking Her Hip

As I found out the hard way when I got interviewed recently on radio 3AW, it can be tricky convincing senior citizens of the benefits of the NBN. Like any sales pitch, you need to tap into people's desires and anxieties. Promising high-speed porn would be an effective but tacky strategy, so tapping into the natural fears many septuagenarians have of falling over seems the next-best idea. And that's exactly what NBN Co is doing: one of its selling points for the NBN is that it makes it easier to use video games to reduce the risks of senior citizens falling over.

At Fridays's NBN launch in Kiama, Dr Stuart Smith the senior research scientist for Neuroscience Research Australia, explained eloquently how the NBN and video game technology can combine to help reduce the risk of falling for older Australians. (Side note: Smith, who worked for years in Ireland, said the NBN rollout was a factor in his returning home, since it made advanced research and medical treatments much more feasible.)

Not only is falling a deeply unpleasant experience for the individual involved, it also costs society an absolute bucketload. A single fall-related admission to emergency carries a total price tag of $20,000. NSW Health estimates that in a single year, senior citizen falls cost half a billion dollars to deal with in the state.

How can we reduce that risk (and that cost)? Smith says fitness is the most vital factor. "Exercise is the key The more we can exercise, the more we can improve our overall level of health. We have to engage older adults in repetitive, balance improving exercise. Exercise is absolutely the cheapest solution."

The difficulty is persuading Grandma and Grandpa to hit the treadmill, which Smith concedes is a challenge "if you're an older adult and you're relatively immobile or you don't want to go out to a gym and exercise in some leotards". (Apologies for that mental image of your elderly aunt dressed in Lycra. And apologies again for spelling it out.)

Anyway, that's where video games come in. "Mostly video games get some very bad press," Smith said — don't we know it — "but video games have this quality about them that they make you want to play them continually. When you're delivering exercise services, that's perfect."

Researchers have already experimented with modifying existing games such as Dance Dance Revolution for exercise training, but it's the addition of camera-based systems like Kinect and Move which make the process really compelling. Nervous exercisers can be guided by trainers in a remote location and record their progress.

"That enables us to maximise the use of the high-speed NBN for the development of fall prevention training programs around Australia," Smith said. "The NBN means you don't have to leave home to go to a 'class'." And there's potential for other illnesses requiring exercise and visual consultations: "We can use these kinds of games for addressing issues like stroke rehabilitation or helping people who have Parkinson's Disease."

High-speed broadband can dramatically improve treatment options for regional seniors. Smith gave the example of one Parkinson's disease patient who lives in Scotts Head in NSW, and who has to make multiple bus trips to get to Coffs Harbour for a super-brief consultation with his neurologist. "That's an entire day event for that poor chap for a 10 minute consultation. Using video conferencing and video game technology, he won't have to do that anymore."

Remember that the next time you're trying to persuade Great-Uncle Alan that he's got the whole NBN thing wrong. In the meantime, extend your sympathies to the game senior who volunteered for the inevitable picture opportunity at the Kiama launch.

A senior citizen demonstrates her bone-protecting moves, and is filmed by grateful TV crews who would do anything rather than put a politician's face on TV.

OMG. Is that Wayne Swan ogling a senior?



    I think, as the concept of 'video games' gradually become mainstream, and the first generation of 'gamers' become older, we'll also see a new generation of 'games' tailored towards people who have grown up with video games, but out aged the genres for younger people.

    Say games that are targeted to be fun for both the parents and the kids, content and challenges that are more suitable towards mature gamers, and as above exercising games suitable for seniors.

    I really wish Kinect allowed you to be that close to the screen while playing.

    How can the sensor even see where he's pointing his arms?

      Look closely near the bottom of the screen, it looks to me like it may just be a video recording playing back on a Mac

        I did notice that and thought it was a bit strange. Also of note is the Nintendo 64 in the picture.

    Video games are just about the last thing a senior citizen would be using the internet for. Wrong age group.

    The NBN marketing team must either be desperate or really stupid to try to pretend that the faster internet speed is going to help reduce accidents. Its a huge stretch of the imagination to get from faster internet speeds to less accidents for the elderly. Sorry, it just doesn't add up.

    Video conferencing - yes, video games - no. But you don't need the NBN for video conferencing when we have a good cheap alternative already that works pretty well - its called Skype.

      You'd be surprised at how effective videogames are in addressing a number of age-related health issues. I was similarly skeptical about the use of videogames for older adults when I started my research BUT I'm pretty happy that if they are appropriately designed, older folks really enjoy playing games. More than happy to chat to you about the points you raise WiLLD. We've been thinking about this seriously for a while and think we can convince you that we are not "seriously stupid".

        Sorry, my parents have trouble figuring out how to put a disc in the xbox, oh wait hang on. Xbox uses a disc for the game right? All the games forementioned are run off discs.

        How does the NBN help them? Oh I see it puts the discs in and everything riiiight.

          On the issue of the difficulties of technology use by older people, well that's the problem of technology developers rather than of older people. In a truly connected world of high speed broadband, we won't need to distribute any content on CD/DVD ever again. Make the tech appropriate for a person's level of technical sophistication/capability and you won't leave anyone behind, including young men who's spinal cords have been mashed (see my answer to MJ)

      I'm with you WillD on this. The constant datarate requirements for this sort of thing would be quite low (<500kbps). I can't see a requirement for HD streaming video content of a senior citizen doing aerobics. Surely a kinect-esque system could stream 3D coordinates of joints much more efficiently to achieve the same end goal.

      I think we have the current technology to perform this, but there is no market for it. Tele-medicine has been touted for years and I would have thought we would have been seeming some limited form of pervasiveness by now.

        Here's a thought if you're concerned about wasting NBN bandwidth on older people. I first started using videogames for rehabilitating upper body function in young men who wiped themselves out in car accidents. Spinal rehab wards are full of young men who lament the fact that they no longer have enough control of their limbs to use game controllers. We are now developing video camera-based gameplay systems so these gents can return home from hospital, some of them to regional, rural or remote Australia, and continue with their rehab, guided by a clinican based back in the Sydney/Melbourne/Brisbane where ever. All via video-rehabilitation gameplay. We've probably not delivered on the promise of telehealth to date because we CAN already do LOTS of things with ADSL. NBN will however open up new possibilities for transmission of health data form the home that we are only just now starting to think about.

        Sure, DDR doesn't need the data rates of NBN, but there's a truck load of applications we have for low latency video data for use in health care and we're building games to make use of this. Watch this space.

    You still aren't showing us anything that can't be done on existing broadband technologies.

    It looks like they are really struggling to convince the public on how they will benefit from the NBN.

    The NBN will increase the cost of internet services (somebody has to pay for it) and not everyone will benefit from what it can provide. The sooner the Government and Gizmodo are upfront about that fact the better.

      Dear RS.
      "The sooner the Government and Gizmodo are upfront about that fact the better."

      Let me be 100% up front with you. The NBN is not Gizmodo policy. We're a media outlet. I personally support the NBN, but if it turns to shit, I'll cover that too. I'll cover the in between, and I'll cover the discussions surrounding it. If Malcolm Turnbull has a point to make, I plan to cover that, too."

      The fact that we ran this gaming piece, which is clearly a stretch of a sell -- instead of just burying it -- is proof that Gizmodo is in this for the tech (we're a tech site, geddit?), not for some political party, whether it be liberal, labor or the Dubbo stamp collector's society.

      The sooner you realise that fact, the better.

    No need for NBN. Second hand Wii is very cheap now. My wife uses it to play herself in tennis: left-hand versus the right hand.

    Like many seniors, she practices dancing, then You-tube dance steps, for her (line) dancing hobbies.

    Myself - a car accident victim with 'useless' left-side body (hemiparesis), can try to rescue my medical impairments. The car accident trauma - I murdered all these evil cars decades ago in car-bash race simulations on my PC.

    What a great idea! I know we already have wii to help with exercise but it would nice to have another avenue. They could have it go hand in hand with physical therapy.

    I have been involved in some early prototyping and research into developing Kinect based game for health applications and you would be surprised how interested some of the elderly are in using games, especially as opposed to the mundane exercises prescribed by physios currently. As for the bandwidth concerns, yes you are probably correct that it could by itself run on a DSL connection, but when you consider running 2 way live high res video, depth camera input and speedy delivery of different games while torrenting the latest Midsomer Murders Season and Michael Buble albums, it can all get a bit much.
    E-Health hasn't had any major break through products yet because a number of contributing factors, price of certain technologies, ubiquity of computers especially in elderly lives and the market not being there. No market, no funding. The market is growing as the population becomes more computer savvy.
    Like I said I have been doing early development in these directions and personally if nothing else I would like to see them succeed so when I am old, bust a hip at lawn bowls and am stuck at home recovering I can fire up the XBox and play something that I know is going to help me recover.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now