A participant testing the game during a workshop

University of Technology Sydney researchers are exploring a new concept in exergaming where the game and exercise occur separately to encourage physical activity in seniors.

Exergaming is a form of physical activity that combines exercise and video games.

Project Elaine (Elderly, AI and New Experience) is trialling the exergame Solitaire Fitness Edition with 10 independent-living seniors.

Participants will wear a Fitbit activity tracker to record their steps and earn points to boost their powers in the game, which is a modified version of Solitaire playable on mobile devices or computers.

Lead researcher Dr Jaime Garcia said project aimed to find out if the rewards encouraged seniors to be physically active.

“In this approach, we are trying to make exercise one of the game mechanics. If you go for a walk, we give you money and that money can be used in the game,” Dr Garcia told Australian Ageing Agenda.

“If you want to play the game, you must exercise, otherwise you can’t play.

Dr Jaime Garcia

“If you walk a lot, you get a lot more money to play the game, which means you get more addicted to playing the game,” said Dr Garcia, a lecturer in game development at UTS.

The 6-week trial commences in March.

In the first stage, seniors record their steps and play the game on tablets without rewards.

The rewards will be unlocked in the second stage to explore whether it encourages more physical activity, Dr Garcia said.

The idea is that participants are more conscious of their steps and aware that increasing their steps will give them more powers and make the game more interesting, Dr Garcia said.

“We want to try a new approach in the space for games for health and see if it is effective in getting people out of their house and exercising,” he said.

The game also encourages cognitive activity by playing Solitaire, Dr Garcia said.

The game builds on Dr Garcia’s previous research, which explored reducing the risk of falls using a stepping game (read our story here).

Project Elaine is now recruiting individuals including retirement village residents to take part in the trial.

Participants must be independently mobile, aged 65 years or over and motivated to walk more than they do now.

They must also be able to attend UTS in Sydney’s central business district at least once during the trial.

Find out more here.

Check the March-April edition of AAA magazine out next month for an in-depth look at this evolving technology.

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