In retirement communities across the country, residents have been getting together and playing Nintendo’s Wii to improve balance, endurance, range …
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In retirement communities across the country, residents have
been getting together and playing Nintendo’s Wii to improve
balance, endurance, range of motion, hand-eye coordination and
But a new game technology has a group of 12 retirees and seniors
at Holly Creek Retirement Community tapping their toes and
sashaying for fitness.
“I haven’t been on a dance floor in probably 40 or 45 years,”
said Paul Youngren, a 73-year-old resident at Holly Creek. “My
grandkids came for Thanksgiving and suggested I do this.”
He’s referring to DanceTown, a slow motion version of the “Dance
Dance Revolution” game that pits players against computer-directed
dance steps, designed to stimulate the brain, and enhance physical,
mental and emotional health.
Youngren and his 11 cohorts are part of a national study
conducted by Humana Health Insurance and the University of Miami to
find ways to increase physical activity in the elderly population.
It is a pilot study and only three retirement communities in the
nation are participating.
Fitness coordinator Rhonda Wolffis meets with Youngren and the
participants twice a week for 30 minutes at a time. By the time the
study is complete, each person will have danced their way through
Stepping onto their “dance pads,” hands on the rails for
support, Youngren and Rosemarie Labriola prepare for a three-minute
dance-off to a canned version of ABBA’s “Dancing Queen.”
Half-way through the song, Wolffis sidles up to Youngren and
says, “Paul, they should be singing ‘you’re a dancing king.’”
Youngren, who’s concentrating on connecting his foot with the
flashing arrow on his dance pad, merely grins.
“The cognitive benefits are huge,” Wolffis said. “It’s amazing
to me that they are able to make the connection at that age.”
Wolffis’ oldest participant is 85.
By “connection,” she means the ability to watch the moving
arrows on the TV screen, and then stomp the coordinating foot on
the coordinating arrow. Each correct stomp counts as a point. Each
properly executed dance routine bumps you into the next level.
Youngren has danced to 142 songs since he started Dec. 12, and
he’s perfectly nailed the routines 86 times. Labriola has danced to
177 songs and perfected the moves 108 times.
“At my age I don’t want to jump or run,” Labriola said. “But I
want to keep my balance and not fall down.”
The game is supposed to increase concentration, balance and bone
density, and according to Wolffis, it is.
According to Labriola, the game causes her to break a sweat,
which is affirmed as she begins to fan herself post dance-off. This
time around, she and Youngren boogie to “Luck Be a Lady Tonight”
from Guys and Dolls.
After each session, Wolffis records heart rates and blood
pressure on a series of charts that will be sent back to Humana and
the University of Miami. Prior to the study, participants had to
complete a series of physical and cognitive tests to measure
Though the study will officially end in March, Wolffis plans to
keep DanceTown around for residents’ continued use.
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