Coffs Harbour boogies into good health

Coffs Harbour will be host to a groovy new trend for older people next week – keeping fit and healthy by dancing to video games.

Dr Stuart Smith from Neuroscience Research Australia will be demonstrating an interactive dance video game designed to reduce older people’s risk of falling.

“We know people can reduce their risk of falling by being more active,” says Dr Smith. “Video games where you move your body to interact with the game are ideal for this.”

Neuroscience Research Australia's dance matDr Stuart Smith shows Kieran Young the ‘dance dance’ moves.

As people get older, falls become more common and can result in serious injuries, as well as loss of independence. Falls are a major reason why older people move into nursing homes.

Dr Smith’s dance mat is based on the video game ‘Dance Dance Revolution’, which requires participants to coordinate their steps with arrows on a screen. He has slowed the game to suit the speed of the older generation and discarded techno music in favour of Frank Sinatra.

“The dance mat is a great way of engaging people in repetitive exercise that they may not do otherwise. We’ve shown that it’s great for practising stepping, which is important. If you trip over, stepping quickly will help you regain your balance,” he says.

Dr Stuart Smith will be discussing his research at T.H.E. Exchange, an event run by Regional Development Australia – Mid North Coast to showcase higher broadband speeds and the use of technology, on Wednesday, 20 July 2011.

Dr Smith will also be presenting on a pilot study to evaluate home-based monitoring of people with Parkinson’s disease who live in regional, rural and remote areas. Ten Coffs Harbour residents have recently taken part in the study.

The monitoring device records the motor function of individuals with Parkinson’s and delivers the data to their doctor via a web-based interface.

“For people who live far away from specialist centres and hospitals, having the option to be assessed in their own home is invaluable,” says Dr Smith.

“Telemedicine projects like this mean that people in regional areas like Coffs Harbour won’t have to compromise on the quality of the healthcare they receive.”