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Wii Sports and other motion video games help elders socialize, stay active

  • Silver Streak bowler Minnie Pohlman bowls a strike in a Wii bowling tournament with the Happy Strikers at the Edmonds Senior Center.

    Michael O'Leary/The Herald

    Silver Streak bowler Minnie Pohlman bowls a strike in a Wii bowling tournament with the Happy Strikers at the Edmonds Senior Center.

  • Silver Streak bowler Minnie Pohlman and other bowlers react as Pohlman bowls a strike.

    Michael O'Leary/The Herald

    Silver Streak bowler Minnie Pohlman and other bowlers react as Pohlman bowls a strike.

  • Happy Strikers bowling team member Donna Johnson hits a spare in tournament with the Silver Streak team in a Wii bowling tournament at the Edmonds Sen...

    Michael O'Leary/The Herald

    Happy Strikers bowling team member Donna Johnson hits a spare in tournament with the Silver Streak team in a Wii bowling tournament at the Edmonds Senior Center.

  • Silver Streak bowler Minnie Pohlman lines up a shot up a shot in a Wii bowling tournament with the Happy Strikers at the Edmonds Senior Center.

    Michael O'Leary/The Herald

    Silver Streak bowler Minnie Pohlman lines up a shot up a shot in a Wii bowling tournament with the Happy Strikers at the Edmonds Senior Center.

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By Sarah Jackson
Herald Writer
Published:
  • Silver Streak bowler Minnie Pohlman bowls a strike in a Wii bowling tournament with the Happy Strikers at the Edmonds Senior Center.

    Michael O'Leary/The Herald

    Silver Streak bowler Minnie Pohlman bowls a strike in a Wii bowling tournament with the Happy Strikers at the Edmonds Senior Center.

  • Silver Streak bowler Minnie Pohlman and other bowlers react as Pohlman bowls a strike.

    Michael O'Leary/The Herald

    Silver Streak bowler Minnie Pohlman and other bowlers react as Pohlman bowls a strike.

  • Happy Strikers bowling team member Donna Johnson hits a spare in tournament with the Silver Streak team in a Wii bowling tournament at the Edmonds Sen...

    Michael O'Leary/The Herald

    Happy Strikers bowling team member Donna Johnson hits a spare in tournament with the Silver Streak team in a Wii bowling tournament at the Edmonds Senior Center.

  • Silver Streak bowler Minnie Pohlman lines up a shot up a shot in a Wii bowling tournament with the Happy Strikers at the Edmonds Senior Center.

    Michael O'Leary/The Herald

    Silver Streak bowler Minnie Pohlman lines up a shot up a shot in a Wii bowling tournament with the Happy Strikers at the Edmonds Senior Center.

Today's video game players aren't just getting younger -- note the 2-year-old playing games on an iPad in the airplane seat next to you -- they're also getting older, a lot older, and lot more active.
Thanks to the rise of consoles equipped with motion-gaming technology such as Nintendo's Wii and X-Box with Kinect, video gaming has become less of a sedentary hobby and more an opportunity for sporting activities, especially among seniors.
Wii bowling is offered as part of a Wii Sports package on the Wii console, along with golf, tennis, baseball and even boxing, and it's leading the trend locally.
Snohomish County senior Wii bowlers are swinging their arms, kicking, jumping, yelling, cheering and even -- when someone is skilled enough to throw a turkey -- strutting like Thanksgiving fowl.
When the Silver Streak Bowlers from the Carl Gipson Senior Center of Everett challenged the Edmonds Senior Center's Happy Strikers, it was a boisterous affair. Two dozen seniors packed into a back room with a large flat-screen TV. No trip to the local bowling alley was required, thank you.
Players on the sidelines cheered for foursomes as they hit strikes and spares. "Nice ball! There's a nice ball!" a woman shouted as a teammate took a shot with her virtual bowling ball, her game controller raised high in a triumphant follow-through stretch.
"Ohhhhh!" the crowd moaned as she missed a single pin.
Will she get the spare?
"Pick it up, babe!"
She takes a swing. Her ball curves ... just so ... and ... "She's ... got it. She's got it!"
Yes, Wii bowling goes against the stereotype of the kinds of things visitors expect to find at a senior center, said Debra Loughrey-Johnson, director of the Gipson center.
There is some screaming.
"I have to shut the door to my office," Loughrey-Johnson said. "Wii brings this place to life.
"Several people went out and bought their own Wiis."
Many of the seniors on the Everett team, age 57 to 91, are capable of real bowling.
But virtual Wii bowling is less taxing, so they can do it more often. There's a reduced risk of injury with no heavy ball to lug around, and it's just as fun.
With a simple flick of the controller, anyone, including people in wheelchairs and even some with visual impairments, can throw strikes.
No one has to wait for a ball to roll back around and every shot comes with an instant replay on the screen.
Some players add kicks for drama or just their own enjoyment.
That includes 71-year-old Minnie Pohlman of Lake Stevens, who used her love of Wii bowling to help her recover from two strokes she suffered in January 2010.
The strokes left her left leg and arm seriously affected, and Pohlman knew her recovery would be a slow process.
Four months after her strokes, however, she started Wii bowling again with her left hand, her dominant hand. Before long her range of movement, strength and dexterity had improved noticeably.
"The Wii bowling was just a tremendous help for me," said Pohlman, who plays Wii bowling at home with her roommate and fellow teammate, Colleen Halvorson, 75. "I really think it very definitely helped re-engage my body."
Pauline Bailey, 72, is the leader of the Silver Streak Bowlers, a group of about 30 active bowlers.
Having bowled for 23 years in her younger days, Bailey was surprised to find how similar video game bowling could be to the real thing, including her typical scores.
"You have to have your line," she said. "You have to have your spot."
James "The Hook" Wise, another Silver Streak bowler, said his real-life bowling trick of lining up on the far right and hooking left works just the same in the virtual game.
The Silver Streak Bowlers, who have a TV at the Everett senior center dedicated to Wii bowling and another dedicated to Wii golf, travel around the county to take on challengers at retirement communities and other seniors centers. They also are teaching the digital ropes at other senior centers so they can set up even more tournaments.
"It's kind of become an extended family," said Linda Lachapelle, the 64-year-old team assistant of the Silver Streak Bowlers.
"We laugh all the time, and they say laughing is the best medicine," she said.

Resources
Carl Gipson Senior Center of Everett: 3025 Lombard Ave., Everett; 425-257-8780; tinyurl.com/carlgipsonseniorcenter.
Edmonds Senior Center: 220 Railroad Ave., Edmonds; 425-774-5555; edmondssc.org.


Story tags » Culture (general)HealthPreventative medicineFitness

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