Marguerite Pickett doesn’t bowl in weekly leagues anymore. But the 77-year-old still plays the game. She just does it with a Nintendo Wii controller instead.
Marguerite Pickett doesn’t bowl in weekly leagues anymore.
But the 77-year-old still plays the game.
She just does it with a stick — a Nintendo Wii controller, actually — instead of an 8-pound ball.
Standing with the same stance she did years ago on the lanes, Pickett swings her arm forward with the controller in hand and watches an image of herself on a big-screen TV rolling the ball down the lane for a strike.
Pickett is one of many senior citizens who are enjoying the Wii Sports games at retirement and nursing homes.
“I love it,” said Pickett, who was playing the popular video game at Bienterra Christian Life Retirement Center in Rockford last week. “The very first time I did this, I did it for so long, I thought that I had injured my shoulder. My doctor was going to send me to get x-rays, and all it was was that I went too long on the game.”
Wii Sports has proved to be just as popular for the young as the young-at-heart. It has allowed residents such as Pickett to regain some of their youth and vibrancy and offers a welcome change from a sedentary lifestyle while boosting hand-eye coordination. According to the Entertainment Software Association’s annual report, 25 percent of gamers are older than 50.
Since she introduced the Wii to residents at Bienterra in January, service coordinator Peggy Bargen has seen a 50 percent increase in participation.
“A few came down to observe, and it wasn’t long until they said they wanted to do it, too,” she said. “It’s a growing thing that they have really come to enjoy, and the more you do it, the better you get.”
Bienterra resident Gloria Osborne, 75, can attest to that. She was one of the first people to try the game in January. She and Pickett were among seven ladies at the center participating in the activity, which is offered at least twice a month.
“I get very excited,” said Osborne, who had a 141 game that day. “It gives me stimulation and it’s something to do. I look forward to it. I look on the calendar and hope that it is more than once. I really enjoyed it.”
Elaine Landenberger, 79, another resident, lined herself up for a strike after missing one early.
“I think it cheats,” 84-year-old Lela Carpenter said with a laugh.
While the Wii has been on the market since 2006, Bargen said it wasn’t until she attended a senior expo last fall that she learned about it. After hearing about another area retirement center using it, she decided to do so as well. “I wasn’t quite sure how it would work with them,” Bergen said.
Roscoe’s NorthPointe Terrace activity coordinator Jessica Hernandez thought the same thing three years ago before her facility started to use it.
“They were skittish about it at first,” Hernandez said. “It was something different. Seniors don’t necessarily like change. They thought it was a children’s game. Then, they realize how fun it was and not just for kids.”
Like Bargen, Hernandez said the most popular game among the seniors is bowling.
“They have tried baseball as well,” Hernandez said. “They found golf to be a little hard. Right now, during the summer, they are doing the Wii once a month, but during the winter, we try to do it at least once a week.”
Resident Shirley Weaver, 74, called the game a good fitness benefit.
“We need the exercise, because we sit around a lot,” she said.
That’s one reason why social service coordinator Kathy Todryk got the Wii for the residents at Christian Life Retirement Center in Loves Park.
“It’s simple,” Todryk said. “They realize this is something they can do and can even sit in their chairs to do without getting up. They get excited about winning and competing. It gives them that sense of accomplishment.”
“The exercise is good, but I like to win. Even though I don’t win all the time,” said 84-year-old Don Roe, who was the lone man playing the game among six ladies at the center that day.
“I wasn’t a bowler, but I heard the people here say they needed a man or two to come down, so I did,” he said. “I liked it a lot and have been doing it for five weeks now.”
Playing the game for more than two hours works out the upper body and can cause some aches in the arms, but that doesn’t keep 79-year-old Jean Bartels away.
“I have had soreness before and after playing, but it is so much fun,” she said.
Rockford Register Star staff writer Brenda Young can be reached at 815-987-1388 or email@example.com.