Pokemon GO and seniors??

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The Pokémon GO craze has been getting people up and moving, challenging their bodies and minds. At DeBary Health and Rehabilitation Center in DeBary, Florida, an innovative therapist thought that utilizing the app would help get our patients motivated. She thought that not only would Pokémon GO benefit patients physically, but it would also encourage interaction with their environment – and provide a firsthand experience with something many of their children or grandchildren are experiencing.

Typically, when one hears the word “therapy” or “rehabilitation,” exercises and weights come to mind. However, at DeBary Health and Rehab, we have incorporated many different, non-traditional activities into our treatment sessions – from using a Nintendo Wii to completing activities on an iPad to playing games. This technology helps our patients reach their goals. The addition of the Pokémon GO app seemed like another great way to make progress with the patients, while bringing extra enjoyment into the therapy sessions.

My first thought when I heard the idea was “What a great story!” followed by “But, are the patients actually using it?” The answer was a resounding “Yes!” I saw happy people – who ordinarily would sometimes not want to go to therapy – learning a new skill and waiting their turn to play.

“As an occupational therapist, we are challenged with coming up with innovative interventions for our patients. Pokémon GO has been a great motivator and tool to facilitate OT concepts,” says Jaclyn Batts, a registered occupational therapist at DeBary Health and Rehab. It was Jaclyn’s idea to introduce the app to the patients, and we’ve received nothing but positive feedback.

Our director of rehabilitation, for example, has seen a marked improvement in the excitement level of the patients playing the game. Patients who weren’t eager to go to rehab sessions are now asking to go, and we see patients walking the hall with their therapist, holding a phone, laughing and saying, “I got one!”

On the surface, one may not see the benefit of using this game to help those recovering from physical injuries; however, when looked at more closely, there are many different types of therapy goals that can be addressed. Using this one app, therapists are able to work on ambulation, standing balance, standing tolerance, hand-eye coordination, problem solving, impulse control and fine motor skills. It also encourages interactions with others, which can be highly motivating to patients.

In addition to the physical benefits, the internet is full of stories about Pokémon GO and its impact on fighting anxiety and depression. Used in conjunction with professional therapies, it offers a new way to engage the mind in a fun, challenging way. It also encourages socialization, which has been proven to boost mental well-being.

While there are no published studies relating to the benefits of Pokémon GO because of the newness of this app, I’ve seen it give our patients something fun to enjoy – something new to keep them “attached” to the world, as one said.

The greatest outcome from using Pokémon GO with patients is seeing how much they enjoy it. They forget they’re in therapy and push harder to stand and walk because they’re motivated to capture the next Pokémon or walk farther down the hallway to find where Pikachu is hiding.