Wii Helps Alzheimer’s Patients

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When John Jacobs picked up a Wii for the first time this year, he cracked a baseball with it
almost immediately. His accomplishment would be significant for any novice Wii user, but it’s particularly notable given that Jacobs has Alzheimer’s disease.

    Jacobs is one of about a dozen residents of Silverado Senior Living -- San Juan Capistrano who have been demonstrating prowess with the Wii since March. Silverado Senior Living -- San Juan Capistrano provides assisted living for people with Alzheimer’s and other memory-impairing diseases.

    "Mr. Jacobs was able to hit the baseball when no one else could, including those of us on the staff," said Linda Szemenyei, the community’s director of resident engagement.

    For Jacobs, the achievement with the Wii reflects his lifelong love of baseball. He played the sport in high school and at the University of Southern California, and later on the team of the company where he worked. Other Silverado residents have used the Wii to play golf or tennis or to
bowl. Some of those residents played the sports earlier in life, but not all of them did so.

    Bringing the Wii to Silverado -- San Juan Capistrano was the idea of its administrator, Carole Shaw.

    "I played with it and I had been reading about how senior citizens were enjoying it and using it for exercise," Shaw said. "I hadn’t heard of it being played by people with Alzheimer’s Disease, but I didn’t see any reason that our residents wouldn’t be able to use it. Our philosophy at
Silverado is to always look at what people with memory impairment can do, rather than what they can’t do, and I thought this would be exciting."

    Silverado staff searched for several months before finding a Wii available for purchase in March. Since then, residents have been gathering at 1:30 each afternoon to use it.

    Szemenyei noted that while some of the community’s residents boxed earlier in their lives, so far that sport hasn’t elicited interest.

    Shaw said: "What our residents are doing with the Wii is a wonderful example of how much capacity and ability people with memory impairment have. It’s so important for the world to understand this and to help each person with memory disorder live to his or her full potential."

    The sessions with the Wii are just one element in a program of daily activities at Silverado that include other kinds of exercise and recreation; time spent with children and animals and in outdoor gardens; participation in clubs for cooking, woodworking, and other interests; and much more. All are part of Silverado’s stated mission of "giving life" to those with Alzheimer’s and other memory-impairing diseases.
 

 

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