How To Ease Stress with Video Games

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Parents might take video game playing privileges away from their children as a form of discipline, but at Virtua Health, caregivers are introducing video games to patients because it eases stress and offers a variety of health benefits. Game console Nintendo Wii is available at the Virtua Health and Rehabilitation Center (VHRC) at Berlin and the Xbox and Nintendo GameCube are available for pediatrics patients at Virtua Voorhees Hospital.

“Virtual activities like playing video games can boost cognitive skills like logical thinking, concentration and memory,” says Gregory Busch, DO, medical director at Virtua Berlin, where many geriatric patients are receiving rehabilitation to improve and maintain functional capacity. “Also, playing the Wii encourages our patients to engage in physical activity, which may enhance their hand-eye coordination and range of motion.”

Peggy Orlando, 92, is just one of the many VHRC at Berlin residents who picked up a controller to rack up points in Nintendo Wii sports games. Wii is Nintendo’s latest video game console which comes with motion-sensitive controllers so players can throw a pitch, swing a racket, and release a bowling ball with a flick of the wrist. Orlando’s favorite game is bowling.

“I bowled in a league every Friday night for thirty years until I quit the league at the age of 86,” says Orlando. “Bowling through Wii allows me to exercise during the day. And it’s fun. It brings me back to the days when I would pack up my bowling bag and head down to the alley.”

Video game consoles are also available for pediatrics patients at Virtua Voorhees. Thanks to grant funding from the Starlight Starbright Children’s Foundation, each room in the pediatrics unit and pediatric intensive care unit has Xbox consoles, games and DVD movies. The pediatric unit and the pediatric emergency department also have Fun Centers, which consists of Nintendo GameCubes, flat screen televisions and DVD players.

“Playing video games can help put a child’s mind at ease,” says Christopher Festa, MD, pediatric intensive care physician, Virtua Voorhees. “Children may feel anxious since they are not familiar with the surroundings, medical staff and monitors that beep every few minutes. Turning on the Xbox and playing a few games is a source of distraction and can relieve some of the apprehension they might be feeling.”

Says Beth Van Buskirk, child life specialist at Virtua Voorhees: “The children and teenagers are thrilled to play video games and watch movies on the Xbox. The game consoles help to normalize the hospital experience for the patients and their families. We are grateful to the Starlight Starbright Children’s Foundation for their donation. Providing these consoles is just another way we can help deliver an outstanding patient experience to the families we serve in the community.”

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