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Local seniors test Goji Play interactive fitness games

Ashby Ponds fitness center serves as demo site for new exercise technology

Created date

March 8th, 2017
Community member Frank Maccini and Ashby Ponds Executive Assistant Debbie Cannatella enjoy testing their skills at the Goji Play demonstration last fall.

Community member Frank Maccini and Ashby Ponds Executive Assistant Debbie Cannatella enjoy testing their skills at the Goji Play demonstration last fall.

In an ongoing commitment to stay current and relevant to everyone at the community, the fitness center at Ashby Ponds, an Erickson Living community in Ashburn, Va., recently served as a demo site for a variety of Goji Play interactive, virtual reality fitness games by Blue Goji.

Founded and created by Coleman Fung and Kai Huang, the talent behind the video game Guitar Hero, Blue Goji strives to create interactive experiences that help improve the health and wellness of Americans. 

Virtual reality enhancing health

According to Blue Goji, “the virtual reality enhancement enables users to play interactive virtual reality (VR) games while training on their cardio machines and completely immersing themselves in virtual worlds to get fitter and healthier.”

The games are used in combination with recumbent bikes, elliptical machines, and treadmills.

For example, the recumbent bikes have special touch pads placed on the bikes’ two handles. A trivia game requires simple yes or no answers selected using the handlebar pads, while the game “Smash” requires use of both the pedals (the faster you pedal, the faster you go) and the handlebar buttons to select direction.

“It’s definitely unlike anything we have done before,” says Fitness Coordinator Robin Lafrankie. “We were eager to try the games and, more importantly, to provide feedback on how these games can best help older Americans achieve their fitness goals.”

Testing site

Two months before the demonstration, Lafrankie and her team introduced the fitness games to a select group of regular visitors to the fitness center. This test group shared their experiences with Lafrankie and other residents. As a result, more than 30 people were eager to try the equipment on the day of the demonstration.

Two team members from Blue Goji’s headquarters in Austin, Tex., traveled to Ashby Ponds to set up their interactive exercise games on the community’s equipment.

“The majority of the programs were put on our recumbent bikes, although a few of our more active residents participated using the elliptical trainer and the treadmill,” says Lafrankie. “We set up the machines inside the fitness center and encouraged everyone to try out Goji Play.”

Participants opting to try out the virtual reality games on the elliptical were among the first to use the games that were released mere days prior to the demonstration.

Participants weigh in

“Everyone enjoyed the variety of games offered,” says Lafrankie.  “The residents who had been using the games prior to the demonstration were excited to try new games. Those who were seeing the programs for the first time were able to get one-on-one instruction from members of the Goji team. The demonstration worked out well for all involved.”

As a result of the successful demonstration, LaFrankie and her team decided to continue their relationship with Goji Play, making the program a regular part of the fitness center’s amenities.

“Our residents expressed a desire to be able to use the system on a regular basis,” says Lafrankie. “I’m excited to continue the relationship because I believe that Goji Play can help residents achieve their fitness goals. We’ve learned that the games are a great way to distract residents from concentrating on how much time they are spending working out. By concentrating on a particular game they are often thrilled with how far they’ve gone or how long they have used a piece of exercise equipment.”

“The system makes it fun to forget about your legs working hard as you try to jump over fences and run through pools of water,” says community member Ann West.

“We are also very pleased with the cognitive challenge the program provides,” says Lafrankie. “There are trivia questions, puzzles, mazes, obstacle courses, that all require coordinating constant body movement along with right/left hand control and cognitive function, in a safe manner.  Residents are able to start out on a simple game allowing them the opportunity to grow accustomed to the controllers. Once they ‘get it,’ they can progress to more challenging games.”

Constructive criticism

In addition to providing a fitness benefit to the Ashby Ponds community, the introduction of Goji Play also helps the company better understand the needs of seniors.

Originally, Goji Play was designed for children and uses a camera in an iPad or tablet to recognize movement. If the participant stops moving, the game will slow down or stop until they start moving again. 

During the Ashby Ponds demonstration, Goji Play representatives discovered that, at times, the game would slow down or stop because the camera could not pick up the more subtle movements of senior participants, even though they were moving.

“The Goji Play representatives were able to see this problem firsthand,” says Lafrankie. “They learned that the program needs to be tweaked to pick up on the subtler movements of seniors rather than the large body movements of children.”

During the demonstration, Goji Play representatives were also able to ask residents questions and get real-time feedback. As a result, they discovered that starting and logging into the program was cumbersome and time consuming. To address this issue, programming was created to allow Ashby Ponds residents the ability to use a simple, single button to start the programs.

Looking forward

Just in time to help in achieving New Year’s resolutions, the Ashby Ponds fitness center began offering Goji Play on a regular basis. Lafrankie and her team hosted a series of orientations to introduce the program to anyone interested in the new addition.

“It is our goal to make Goji Play an independent activity for our residents, but our staff is always available to assist those wanting to use the system,” says Lafrankie. “Our residents really enjoy trying new things, especially when it comes to technology. I’m so happy that Goji Play provides this opportunity while at the same time promoting physical fitness.”