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How Patients Over 65 Are Using Technology During Rehab Therapy

Are you hesitant to bring technology into a treatment plan for older patients? You may be underestimating their willingness to embrace it. Just like people of any age, older patients enjoy using new things to make their lives easier and more rewarding. And with the technology available today, it can not only increase engagement for these patients, but also play a major role in their treatment results.

Older adults’ use of technology in healthcare includes everything from smartphone apps to schedule appointments, track health metrics, and complete telemedicine visits to playing video games and virtual reality (VR) as part of physical therapy rehabilitation. And PTs are increasingly using new technologies to provide better outcomes for their geriatric patients, including video games and VR interventions for overall physical health and balance, as well as treating specific conditions including chronic back pain and Parkinson’s disease. 

As a practitioner, it is essential to understand the role of various modern tools in helping patients best meet their goals, and stay up to date as new tech comes out and finds its way into healthcare. Before introducing new tools into your care approach, you should identify any barriers to using technology and plan out any necessary training so patients can have a safe and valuable experience. 

In this article, we’ll cover some ways that patients 65 and up are adopting technology in their rehab experiences.

Engaging with their PT Clinic

First, patients both young and old are using technology to interact with their physical therapy clinic throughout their treatment. From online scheduling, to text notifications about upcoming appointments and additional availability, to making online payments, technology is easing paperwork burdens on the patient and the clinic while making the clinic stand out from the crowd. And appointment check-ins are about to get easier too, with digital kiosks growing in use at rehab practices.

Online intake forms for new patients are perhaps one of the most widely adopted and effective ways that tech has transformed healthcare for older patients. In a recent interview with Montana Sport & Spine, a Prompt customer with a high percentage of elderly patients, they reported that 85% or more of their patients now complete their intake online. Along with the added convenience for patients, this approach saves the practice “a ton of time and burden and makes the job as an admin much easier.”

Another bonus, especially for older patients, is having access to home exercises that feature video demos of prescribed exercises. The ability to see exercises instead of remember them increases the chance they’ll complete them. Finally, telemedicine visits/hybrid care are also a great option to support their treatment when it may prove difficult to get into the clinic. 

Active video games for mobility and balance

As the population ages, typically their participation in exercise and other active hobbies tends to decrease over time. It is important to continue to promote exercise for health benefits as well as balance. One way physical therapists are using video games is as a tool to promote mobility and balance. 

A recent meta-analysis looked at randomized controlled trials and the use of active video games to improve mobility and balance in people over 65. It found the use of video games improved mobility and balance scores, but equally important, it also improved participant self-confidence. Sometimes the fear of falling leads to decreased participation in activities in order to avoid the potential for a fall. However, if patients are more confident, they are more likely to continue to complete exercises such as walking and other interventions that will mitigate the effects of aging.

Virtual reality for falls reduction

Not only are video games being used for mobility and balance, but VR is also a tool used for specific falls reduction in patients identified as having a greater risk of falling. Older individuals are generally at greater risk for falls overall, particularly due to decreasing activity, mobility, strength, and balance. With one in five falls leading to serious injury, it is essential to address the components of falls risk in the aging population. 

A recent study, which utilized Xbox Kinect for people with a known risk of falls, determined the approach to be a potential intervention that could improve functional balance assessments. The Timed Up and Go (TUG) test improved, but the main outcome was increased patient confidence in moving without falling. Exercise games (or “exergames”) could give older people the confidence to exercise and remain more active.

Virtual reality for Parkinson’s disease

In a 2024 study, the use of VR via the Wii Fit board in combination with routine physical therapy was found to be more effective than routine physical therapy alone in demonstrating improved balance, motor function, and activities of daily living. The VR greatly enhanced motor function which the authors attributed to the repetition and external feedback at an appropriate pace for improving motor learning and balance in these patients.

Given the improvements seen in this patient population with exergames, it could be beneficial to set up some of them with a home system to continue their rehab if appropriate and safe. However, some of the systems (Wii Fit and XBox) used in these studies may be difficult to come by since they are a little outdated.

Other uses of VR and gaming in rehab

Virtual reality or video game technology could also be effective treatments in other areas for people over 65. For example, the use of video games such as Wii Fit may serve as an adjunct to traditional physical therapy for some patients following a total knee arthroplasty in order to improve balance. However, professional clinical judgment should be used before implementing this therapy to ensure it is an appropriate intervention for each patient. 

In addition, VR could be helpful as a pain reduction tool for people with chronic low back pain. The interventions in this study included activity-based gaming simulations such as rowing and marches as well as pain management education modules. The results suggest it could be helpful as an additional tool in managing chronic pain, however it is not a substitute for traditional physical therapy.

Helping patients find VR to use in treatment

If you want to try a particular older game during treatment, consider helping patients look for used systems online or at a local used games store. If patients are unable to get their hands on a Wii Fit board or XBox Kinect, there are some more modern tools on the market. In a recent study, Ring Fit Adventure for the Nintendo Switch was effective in improving physical function, depression, and fall risk in older adults in a similar manner as other exergames. Another option to explore could be the Oculus (Meta Quest 2) VR system. With all of the exergames it is important for patients to understand the risks and benefits of home use. Keep in mind, these interventions are likely not covered by insurance either.


The use of modern tech as part of physical therapy for older individuals spans everything from improving balance to combatting the effects of Parkinson’s disease to easing symptoms of chronic low back pain. Patients over 65 are benefitting and enjoying the use of technology in rehab settings. It takes traditional physical therapy to a new level and increases participation in therapy and an active life!

Psst! Prompt offers a number of modern features that support the care journey for older patients:

Book a demo with our team to learn how Prompt can modernize your practice in ways that even the older generation has come to expect when considering new healthcare options.

About the author:

Chelsea Krotser is an outpatient orthopedic physical therapist and freelance writer. Drawing on her experience as a PT as well as her former life as an accountant, she is dedicated to providing an insightful clinical and business perspective. She loves writing about all things related to physical therapy. You can find her on Instagram @chelseakrotser.

Prompt Staff

Prompt Therapy Solutions builds practice management software for physical therapy clinics ranging from single provider practices and startups, to large enterprise organizations.

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