We all want to stay healthy—but motivation’s in short supply, and anyway, how many of us really know how to prevent or effectively manage the chronic diseases that can challenge us as we get older?
That’s the reasoning behind the Kiosks for Living Well. An initiative of Greater Lynn Senior Services in Massachusetts, the Kiosks let older residents get health-related supports and activities in places where many seniors gather, like libraries, housing complexes and senior centers. And because they’re in social spaces, the kiosks also become social magnets.
Currently the Kiosks operate on the North Shore area of Massachusetts, north of Boston, but the program is on the verge of going national as more and more people learn about the benefits of both technology and face-to-face contact.
Games for Health
The Kiosks offer people the chance to stop by and use large touch-screen programs that make it easy to find health information and manage health issues, along with a slew of virtual experiences—cycling and airplane piloting among them. They also offer Skype for connecting to friends and family, and games like trivia and karaoke, along with memory and coordination games, music and art therapy and a Memory Café that includes hundreds of digital activities designed to help people with dementia.
Kiosks for Living Well don’t replace health centers or the expertise there, but they are staffed by trained advisors and specialists—nurses, community health workers, social workers, kinesiologists and others who provide a mix of health counseling and referrals, monitoring and inspiration, all one-on-one. The friendly environment and entertaining activities make it easier for people to share information with the health specialists and build ongoing relationships with them.
Valerie Callahan, Director of Planning at GLSS, tells a story about Jack, a World War II veteran who came to the Kiosk, attracted by the virtual flight program with WWII backdrops.
While “flying” his planes (and crashing), he told the counselor about some issues he was having with vision, coordination and mobility.
“The advisor referred him to the Move Safe Counselor, who gave him an assessment and some exercises. She convinced him to use a cane and get new glasses. Jack also opted in to the chair Tai Chi class and got his BP checked,” Callahan says.
Jack is feeling better now. And he’s one of the top pilots on the virtual leaderboard.
Fred, a Kiosk regular, times himself every week on the virtual bike program, tracking his progress and usually breaking his personal best. “I have arthritis kicking in right about here, and my doctor thinks it would be good to go on that bike and straighten it all out,” he says.
Sometimes we forget that our bodies are more than machines—they’re systems, and everything, from stress about housing to how connected we are with other people can affect our health. The Kiosks provide opportunities for visitors to monitor their health, track their progress and see how changes they make in their lives produces results in everything from blood pressure to memory and general fitness. It’s a great motivator to keep building a healthy lifestyle—especially when there’s a goal.
“I’d like to get back on the golf course and play, and break 90,” Don, another Kiosk regular, says. He used to have a +2 handicap; now he’s seeing progress as he works toward his goal. “I want to be able to get back out and play and have some fun.”
Photo: Courtesy Greater Lynn Senior Services