Seniors say weee playing Wii

The very latest in technology appeals to the oldest

Senior bowler Alice Quan lines up with the head pin and begins her delivery. Her movements are silky smooth, that of an experienced 10-pinner.
Strike!
That’s followed by hoops, hollers and high fives by her fellow bowlers as the New Westminster senior returns to her seat.
Ten-pin bowling is the latest program offered at Century House, as well as tennis, baseball, golf and boxing—all within the walls of the seniors’ centre.
No renovations were required for the sports, just plug in the Wii and play.
Century House seniors were recently introduced to the Nintendo Wii gaming system and some are now experienced enough to “school” their grand kids.
“This is a fun way to stay active,” said Quan. “If you like sports you should really like this.”
Fellow senior Joyce Babington can’t hurl strikes like Quan but she’s having just as much fun at Wii bowling.
“I love it because seniors can do this,” she said.
“You still get just as excited. The last time we played they had to close the doors on us because we were making so much noise.”
Seniors are taking to the Wii in homes and centres around the Lower Mainland. This generation that didn’t grow up with computers and video games has taken to the Wii because it keeps them active and entertained. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s easy to use.
The Century House Wii is courtesy of Evelyne Kennedy, who works for Home Instead Senior Care. She takes the gaming platform to various seniors’ centres and homes around the Lower Mainland.
The response is always the same.
“It’s rewarding to watch seniors who aren’t active play the Wii. Their faces light up and they have a lot of fun,” said Kennedy.
The Wii is the cutting edge for seniors programming, said Jay Young, recreation programmer for Century House. The only challenge is getting seniors to trust the technology.
“But everyone who has tried it, loves it,” he said. “Word of mouth is getting more people involved.”
Young predicts Century House will buy its own Wii because of its benefits—keeping seniors active and entertained.
The beauty of the Wii, said Kennedy, is it’s simplicity and that anyone can use it—no matter what their level of activity is.
“You have some seniors who can’t do very much, so this is a point of pride for their lives. It makes them feel confident that they can still do some things,” said Kennedy.
Nintendo, makers of the Wii, found two things held back seniors from being gamers: they were too complicated to operate and the game themes didn’t really appeal to them.
But the Wii has made inroads with seniors because of its simplicity. And games, like bowling, tennis, boxing, golf and baseball, are almost universally known and played.
The Wii remote is also a clincher in attracting seniors. For most games only two buttons are used with the simple to hold Wii remote. Otherwise, you control it with your arm and body movement.
And the fact you have to get off your duff to play it is another feature seniors like. And programmers for seniors centres and residential homes have been quick to pickup on that. Some seniors homes hold bowling tournaments complete with trophies and prizes.
Also in hospitals, the Wii is used as physical therapy for patients recovering from strokes, broken bones and surgery. “Wiihabilitation” is preferred over the usual stretching and lifting exercises.
SFU gerontologist Gloria Gutman said the Wii has health benefits if it encourages seniors to move.
“If it’s giving exercise, it’s lovely. Exercise of any type is good for your body. Certainly you want to use your body and brain. If it’s fun, if it gives you some exercise, it’s terrific,” said Gutman, the founding president of the Gerontology Association of B.C.
“But if it’s going to keep them indoors, it’s the equivalent of being a couch potato. That’s the downside. The upside is if they’re doing it as a group activity and going out to a seniors centre to play.”
Gutman added that many seniors have an interest in computers and new technology, which is evident in their enthusiasm for the Wii.
“What it shows is that seniors aren’t technophobic, despite the stereotype. You can learn at any age. And it can be a source of intergenerational conversation to speak with your children and grandchildren,” she said.
“But moderation is important. If you’re playing 18 hours a day, whether you’re a kid or a senior, it’s not exactly a recipe for wellness.”
mmcquillan@newwestnewsleader.com

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