Singapore: Helping Seniors Staying Fit Through Xbox’s Kinect

A team from Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University’s (NTU) Centre for Healthy and Sustainable Cities (CHESS) has come up with video games to help seniors stay physically fit and bond with the community at the same time, as a way to help the greying population in Singapore age in place. The games are played on Xbox 360’s Kinect platform, where the players’ physical movements are captured by motion sensors to control game characters’ actions. Data on the elderly players’ movements are analysed to determine their health status and to recommend intervention programmes.

One of these games lets players collect gold coins by walking, running and kicking obstacles through the virtual streets of Chinatown. Besides enhancing fitness, these games promote intergenerational bonding, said CHESS’ founding director, Professor Theng Yin-Leng. A study she co-authored in 2013 found that video games did better in facilitating positive interaction between youths and the elderly — enhancing conversation and confidence, while reducing awkwardness — than conventional intergenerational activities such as watching TV programmes and playing card games. With S$1.5 million of seed funding from NTU, CHESS, which was established a year ago, aims to develop healthy cities using existing and emerging information and communication technologies (ICTs).

Its three thrusts include using ICTs to promote health and prevent illness across various community groups; studying the effect of the mass media on science-, environment-, and climate-related issues; and providing cost-effective evidence for policymaking as well as education.

Another of CHESS’ ongoing studies aims to develop a mobile app that reminds senior patients to take their medication regularly.

“About 50 per cent of elderly patients here do not adhere to taking their medication regularly … We hope technology can ease the workload of caregivers, and especially help those without caregivers,” said Prof Theng, adding that a preliminary survey would be conduced among elderly with mild dementia.

Another of CHESS’ forthcoming innovations is a haze analytics app, which provides health advisories based on the latest pollution standards index readings and the individual’s existing health and medical condition.