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Wii helps motivate seniors

Game system offers unique way to stay active

February 28, 2008
By Brad Bauer,
Like a kid on Christmas morning, Norma Price couldn’t wait to try a new video game system donated Tuesday to the O’Neill Senior Center.

Price, 78, of Marietta watched as a handful of Marietta College students set up the Nintendo Wii (pronounced “wee”).

After a quick demonstration, Price got out of her chair, grabbed the motion-sensing controller and simulated throwing a bowling ball down an alley.

“Come on, baby!” Price shouted at her ball as it crept down the lane, displayed on a TV.

She said it was the first time she had bowled in years. Her first ball took out seven pins. An attempt at a spare came up just short.

Price finished the game with a 107, which was a little behind a few of the college students who played along with her.

“I’m just padding my handicap,” she said.

Nintendo’s Wii is wildly popular with adolescents, and quickly gaining popularity with seniors.

Nancy Matheny, activities director at the O’Neill Senior Center, said retirement homes and recreaction centers have found the new console helps motivate seniors to get up and move.

“Seniors are very competitive, and this will definitely get them going,” Matheny said.

In addition to bowling, the most popular games for seniors and rehabilitation patients include baseball, boxing, golf and tennis.

Matheny said in addition to health benefits, the games offer unique family opportunities.

“During the summer, we expect a lot of grandchildren to be here playing with their grandparents,” she said.

Price and other seniors struggled at first with the game’s controller — similar in size and shape to a large TV remote. But after just a few minutes the seniors were giving the college seniors a good game.

“I think I’m going to try to talk my mom and grandma into getting one,” said Nick Manson, 22, a Marietta College senior from Akron.

Price said she has a grandson who got a Wii for Christmas.

“He’s going to be invited up pretty quick,” she said. “He’s going to have his hands full.”

The game system, which retails for about $250, was donated by Renee Steffen, AmeriCorps Vista campus and community collaboration leader at Marietta College.

Steffen, 23, won the system but thought the seniors would enjoy it more.

“My initial response is that it would be fun to play, but it would probably end up collecting dust after a while,” she said. “A friend mentioned to me that a lot of elderly people are using the Wii to stay active so I contacted the O’Neill.”

Price said she’s glad Steffen did.

“Oh, to be young again!” she said after hitting a spare.

Article Photos

MITCH CASEY The Marietta Times
Norma Price puts a little body English on the direction of her bowling ball as friend Frances Richardt looks on Wednesday while playing Wii at the O'Neill Senior Center. Marietta College students were on hand to teach seniors how to play the interactive video game.



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