Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Seniors Scoring on Nintendo's Wii Games

Sports -- golf, tennis, billiards, bowling, baseball, & more -- can be played on an electronic gaming system, displayed on a screen, & directed by a remote, motion-detection controller. Many seniors are taking up the challenge of virtual sports, sometimes in teams.

The possibility was noted after last year's introduction of the Nintendo "Wii" game system. In "
Even Senior Citizens Love the Nintendo Wii", posted by blogger Tom Samiljan on Yahoo's Technology Forum on Feb 23, 2007, the unlikely new audience was identified:

Nintendo may have been going beyond their traditional core gaming audience with the Wii and its user-friendly, motion-sensitive remote controller, but getting to the senior citizen demographic is truly trailblazing.

And that's exactly where the Wii is turning out to be a big hit, if this Chicago Tribune piece about a bunch of Wii-loving seniors is to be believed. It turns out the gaggle of gaming grandparents is all over the Bowling game from Wii Sports. * * *

And Nintendo has been actively pursuing the over-50 market since the Wii's launch, as this Siliconera post from the AARP Life@50 event attests [10/30/06]. * * *
The referenced article, published in the Chicago Tribune on February 16, 2007, was entitled "Wii bowling knocks over retirement home", by .
At the Sedgebrook retirement community in Lincolnshire, where the average age is 77, something unexpected has been transpiring since Christmas.

The residents, most of whom have never picked up a video game controller in their life, suddenly can't put the things down.

"I've never been into video games," said 72-year-old Flora Dierbach last week as her husband took a twirl with the Nintendo Wii's bowling game. "But this is addictive." * * *

The Wii has become so popular at Sedgebrook that on Sunday afternoon there will be a video game bowling tournament in the lounge. More than 20 residents have signed up to compete. * * *

If the retirees in Lincolnshire are any proof, video games are no longer just kids' play. And that's the whole idea, said Beth Llewelyn, Nintendo's senior director of corporate communications. * * *

The reaction to the system by seniors has been a pleasant surprise. * * *

Since that publication, another Christmas has passed. Interest by senior citizens in Nintendo's "Wii" appears to have grown. Now, retirement communities & care facilities encourage such use.

An article posted on Christmas Day, December 25, 2007, entitled "
Grandpa and grandma get their game on with the Wii", by Kevin Reece, of KHOU-11 News (Houston, TX), reported that "[r]etirement communities turn to Wii to help keep residents active."
The sounds of a major sporting match wafted from an unlikely place Monday – the Eagle’s Trace Retirement Community. Art Lewicki was among the residents there who left their walkers behind to play a little baseball.

Baseball on his Wii, that is. In fact, Lewicki happens to be the local homerun derby champ.

“Well, I beat nine other guys. I guess that’s alright,” he said. He and his friends are members of one of the supposedly unintended audiences for Nintendo’s incredibly popular Wii game console -- seniors. * * *

Retirement homes across the country have added
Wiis to their recreation rooms and programs. That’s because seniors have found the consoles to be as much of a welcome escape as their grandkids.

Kimball says the exercise isn’t the only benefit from the
Wii. The competition gets her blood pumping as well.

“And of course, your temper may get up on you too,” she added.

The phenomena was also noted also by the Christian Science Monitor, in its article entitled "Nintendo's Wii a surprise hit with seniors" (11/27/07), which reported that "video-game versions of bowling, boxing or tennis can offer an adrenaline rush that older players haven't experienced in years."

The Nintendo Wii was so popular that the residents clamored for their own.

Today, all of the Erickson chain retirement communities in the US own at least one
Wii. Other retirement communities and municipal senior centers in recent months have followed, many using wellness grants and public funds to pay for the video-game system.

Nintendo scrambled to tap this demographic. Proponents say the
Wii offers a welcome reprieve from a sedentary lifestyle, and boosts hand-eye coordination among the over-60 set in a way that Bingo and Mahjong can't.

However, some find that when it comes to the
Wii, which retails for about $250, money is less a problem than getting comfortable with the game.

Many retirement communities that purchased the games are encouraging hesitant seniors with tournaments, trophies, and cash prizes.

Some centers are placing their
Wiis in high-traffic areas where seniors congregate, or for the bashful, behind a moveable privacy screen. * * *

See also: "More Wii Gaming for Older Adults" (10/11/07), posted by the Senior Friendly Libraries blog.

In New England, some younger folks even started a movement, with a website, promoting use of the Wii by seniors -- WiiSeniors.

WiiSeniors was created to bring video game systems into senior care facilities in New England.

These games allow people to experience sports and activities that they have not been physically able to experience in years.

It’s a very new idea, but we feel like it could change the way we look at aging and its impact on enjoying life. * * *

That Christian Science Monitor article noted use of the Wii in Pennsylvania by a senior for -- "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee" -- boxing!

In Allentown, Pa., 200 to 300 people arrive at the Lehigh County Senior Center daily for pursuits ranging from orchestra to ceramics.

The center unveiled its Wii this fall and put it in the lunchroom. "They've got time to hang out there," says Rick Daugherty, executive director of the center.

The Wii isn't always a hub of activity – that is, until Eddie Smith, a former lightweight boxer from Philadelphia, fires it up and begins to throw punches on the Wii's boxing game.

"They watch me doing it, and I get a big crowd there," says Mr. Smith, a patron and part-time employee of the center. "Next thing you know, somebody will want to play."

For Smith, the game and the spectators offer an adrenaline rush that he hasn't experienced in decades.

"When I score a knockdown, it actually feels like I'm going through it again. It's a good feeling," he says. "I imagine the people using this, it gives them self-confidence."

Plus, Smith says, it's a good workout, though not without its perils.

"Jabbing and hooking, you've got to be careful," he says. "You can throw your arm out of whack."

Mr. Daugherty, himself an enthusiast of the boxing game, is grateful that "nobody's gotten injured," he says. * * *

It's an updated, healthy version of "shadow boxing" that can benefit seniors.

On the other hand, my search of the web does not reveal any widespread senior use of "Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock" on the Wii -- yet.

Update: 12/28/07:

On December 5, 2007, WBTV-3 (Charlotte, NC) televised a segment entitled "Wii, Video Games Keeping Senior Young". The video segment is available online.

The article expands the focus from the Wii and into other gaming systems that challenge seniors' thinking skills & reaction times:

The Nintendo Wii has been out since last year and found a decent amount of young followers. But now, all of a sudden, a new group of folks are clammering for it. * * *

The Nintendo Wii really is a lot of fun, but what makes it such a must get for just about every senior home and assisted living complex I've talked to is its interactive ability.

Essentially seniors can do things they used to do like bowl, without putting hardly any stress on their bodies.

The problem is, the Wii's are hard to find, but some homes are making due in other ways.

It's not the Nintendo Wii, but the concept is the same, video games that get folks moving and thinking. * * *
Update: 02/20/08:

On February 20, 2008, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette posted an article entitled "WILD ABOUT Wii!", by Marylynne Pitz, who reports that this "[v]ideo game system is bowling over [the] senior citizen crowd" at the Turtle Creek Senior Citizens Center.

See also the accompanying "Video: Senior citizens tackle gaming system", by Steve Mellon, which summarizes, then visually demonstrates, the effects of this new senior activity:
People tend to think of gaming systems -- Play Station, X-Box and Wii -- as something designed especially for the younger set. But don't tell that to the folks at the Turtle Creek Senior Citizens Center. On Friday nights, Wii bowlers are so gleeful they're oblivious to February's gray skies.

"It's brought so many more people in here," says Theresa Pollitt, 77, of Turtle Creek. "We have a gal on a walker who bowled over 200." * * *

The Friday virtual bowling draws many people together and appears to create a genuine sense of camaraderie, says Jan McDowell, the center's director.
Update: 12/14/09:

A Pennsylvania senior squad took home the silver bowl in
the finals of the first National Senior League (NSL)Wii Bowling Championship. See: PA EE&F Law Blog post "PA Seniors in Online Wii Championship Bowl" (12/14/09).