If you’ve read or watched the news at all in the past few weeks, or even just gone outside and seen groups of people huddled around their phones, you probably know about this Pokémon Go thing.
I’m not much of an early adopter, and I passed on the initial Pokémon craze in the 1990s in favor of less intense options such as Easy Bake Ovens and American Girl dolls. So this time around I resisted downloading the Pokémon Go app for weeks, convinced that I’d probably hate it, until I was probably the only person I knew who wasn’t playing.
And then I caved.
For the uninitiated, Pokémon Go is a video game that uses your phone’s GPS to make you the main character. Your neighborhood is the playing field, and each step you take in real time moves your player around in search of little creatures you then use your phone’s camera to capture.
Like any viral-scale craze, I figured it was only a matter of time before Pokémon Go made its way to the long-term care arena. And I was right.
One Florida nursing home has introduced the app to help get its rehabilitation residents moving. Residents report that it helps keep them active both mentally and physically, and brought them closer to their grandchildren or other young relatives who play the game.
Another continuing care retirement community in Texas has built a class around the game to help familiarize residents with the app and all it offers.
Similar to the Wii before it, Pokémon Go comes with a variety of benefits. There’s a social aspect to walking around and seeing other players as intent on catching and battling monsters as you are. And the game has forced people to get off their couches and actually walk around. (My boyfriend’s dog is probably confused about why she’s getting so many more walks all of a sudden.)
But like any fad, the app poses some risks — especially to potential players living in long-term care communities.
Many players around the world have tripped or fallen (in one instance off a cliff) since they’re more focused on their screen than the terrain around them. And the app’s camera-based mode of catching the critters could cause problems, especially in healthcare settings such as long-term care, which is growing more vigilant about the use of social media and cameras around residents.
But a closely monitored and controlled environment can help lessen some of those risks, and amplify the positive aspects of the game. Plus it’s free, and getting staff on board should be pretty easy, especially if they or their children are already playing it.
So if you’ve been dismissing Pokémon Go as a passing fad or a kid’s game, take a second look. This might be one viral phenomenon that’s worth catching.
Follow Emily Mongan @emmongan.