Serious games for healthy and active aging

The problem

Dr. Mark Chignell, Founder and President, Centivizer Inc.

Physical and cognitive function tend to decline with age.

“If you think of the brain as a really complex machine doing lots of different things, that machine can break down in many different ways,” says Dr. Mark Chignell, a University of Toronto professor.

Exercise is key, he says. “As you exercise, you improve blood flow, you improve metabolism, you reduce blood pressure. And basically you take the pressure off the brain.”

But how to motivate activity and make it rewarding for older adults living in long-term care homes, retirement residences and their own homes?

The solution


Dr. Chignell and his team at Centivizer Inc., an AGE-WELL startup, created a set of interactive and rewarding technology-based activities to promote physical and cognitive health.

With the 2RaceWithMe exergaming product, players can use hand pedals, foot pedals or both. When they start pedalling, they press a button to choose a video that could, for instance, have you travelling a mountain road or visiting a favourite city.

“To watch the video, they have to exercise – and that becomes very rewarding for people. They are willing to exercise just to see the content.”

Players can also communicate with friends and family through the game, and challenge others to a virtual race. The technology allows users or family members to view a progress report online.

The impact

“It’s entertaining, good for you and strengthens your muscles,” says Ellen Saunders, a resident of York Care Centre in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Saunders had a stroke several years ago that left her paralyzed on her left side. Before that, she liked to go walking, camping and bowling.

“I have arthritis in my right hand and it causes my hands to go numb every night, but since I started with the program, my hands aren’t numb anymore in the morning. And it’s helped my shoulder, which was really sore.”

“I love it. I would highly recommend it to anybody,” says Saunders.

The future

Centivizer products are being rolled out in Canada by organizations like Faubourg du Mascaret and the Centre for Innovation and Research in Aging. 2RaceWithMe has already been sold to a number of locations and is currently being used in five Canadian provinces.

“It’s an amazing feeling when you see a product that you’ve worked on for so long actually getting used and getting used successfully,” says Dr. Chignell, founder and president of Centivizer Inc.

“Centivizer wouldn’t be here without AGE-WELL. AGE-WELL has basically been instrumental in everything we do. It’s given us funding, it’s given us direction, it’s given us opportunities to demo our work. Any aspiring entrepreneur could benefit from the services that AGE-WELL provides.”

Dr. Mark Chignell, Founder and President, Centivizer Inc.