In 2004 while on tour with Maynard Ferguson my parents met up with me while we were in London, England playing for a week. It was already becoming somewhat obvious that something was “off” with my Dad. At this time, we hadn’t had a true diagnosis as to what was going on with his health, but because his balance was bad… in other words, he would periodically just fall – walking, standing, leaning over.
As the year progressed, it was becoming apparent that this problem was not getting better and was going to need to be truly diagnosed. So as the 2004 tour was wrapping up, I decided to go back home and help out in any way that I could. We were finally referred to a Neurologist who was able to diagnose my Dad with Parkinson type syndrome. It’s not the actual disease, but has very similar traits – balance, temper issues, motor skills, speech, etc. without the actual shaking or involuntary muscle movements.
With the loss of mobility and the type of exercises he was being prescribed by the Physical Therapist, it made me question if a video gaming system like Wii would be advantageous to his condition and the therapy that he was undergoing. The therapy was to help him maintain his independence and his motor skills longer vs. trying to reverse the ill-effects of the disease. His version of the disease is caused by what doctors called “TIA’s” or mini-strokes… many of them possibly over the course of decades. Over time, this starts to shut down and even stop motor function, speech, etc.
Because Wii is an interactive gaming system requiring the participant to actually physically go through the motions of the game it’s representing, this might be a good way to help those that suffer from it. Take for instance tennis – the participant is required to move and swing a racket the same way a person playing tennis on an actual court would do – just on a smaller scale and with limited space. In recent times, Wii games have expanded in to actual exercise routines…
Unfortunately for my Dad, Wii was not what it is now and the therapist at the time didn’t see the possibility for truly helping my Dad. Either because of the more “classic” types of therapy or because it was a steady paycheck for the therapist. It is my belief that had he been able to participate with one of these types of games, it could have kept his strategic skills, motor functions and focus more sharply tuned than doing leg lifts, writing and flash cards.
If you or someone you love are showing signs of, have been diagnosed with or are just becoming completely inactive (better known as “retirement”), please [url not allowed] for more information concerning the prospects of this new technology!
Keith Fiala / Anna Romano