The program grew out of research by Sarah Francis, assistant professor of food science and human nutrition at Iowa State. As she studied nutrition and developed programs "to encourage behavior changes at congregate meal sites, she noticed a recurring theme of older adults enjoying the Wii gaming system to bowl or play tennis," Villanueva-Whitman writes. "At one site, the adults would wait in line because only one person knew how to use it."
The program began in 2011 with funding from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Rural Health and Safety Education grants. "The pilot program involved 46 participants, with 18 Iowa State University students serving as trainers," twice a week for eight weeks, Villanueva-Whitman reports. Afterward, seniors continued exergaming on their own "and received newsletters discussing additional ways to get physical activity and focusing on cognitive exercise, brain health, social relationships and nutrition." Currently, 92 seniors and 29 trainers participate in the program in 12 counties, with 10 more counties having signed up to start programs. The goal is to get 400 seniors and 80 trainers involved. (Read more)