Videogames often get a “bad rap” for encouraging inactivity, a critique that one might argue is justified when it comes to many young people today. However, when a group of seniors and their supporters gathered together at Genesis Village on August 28 for a Wii Bowling tournament, the scene was anything but sedentary.
Meeting that day for a little friendly competition were the Bowling Stones, coached by rehab staff from The Laurels of Toledo, and the 300 High Rollers from Michaelmas Manor. Spirits ran high as players of all fitness and mobility levels demonstrated their virtual bowling prowess. Some bowled from a standing position, others from a wheelchair, but all brought their own unique moves to the game. Though everyone played to win, it was clear from the laughter and friendly banter between the teams that fun and camaraderie were their true objectives.
Julie Leidel, Rehab Services Director for The Laurels of Toledo, remarks that Wii Bowling is not just an opportunity for fun, but also a great way for seniors to stay active. “Therapists like Wii Bowling because it offers visual, auditory, and kinesthetic feedback,” she says. “In fact, if patients are in formalized therapy, the game can actually be integrated right into their plan of care. But one of the best rewards is socialization, having something in common to do with their peers.”
Laurels physical therapy assistant Brad Weaver agrees, adding, “The great thing about Wii Bowling is that the mechanics of the game are so similar to real bowling. A lot of our team members used to bowl for different clubs around town, but it got to the point where the ball was too heavy for them to manage. With Wii Bowling, they use a very light remote but perform the same movements.”
For Bowling Stones member Rubie Williams, age 74, a regular bowling ball most decidedly became too heavy to manage. In fact, the last time she tried real bowling, the weight of the ball pulled her over and she fell in the lane. So, she got into Wii Bowling at a local senior center and then joined the Bowling Stones when she moved to Genesis Village. “I just love it!” she enthuses. “Some days you do really well, and other days you don’t, but you always have a great time nonetheless.”
Rubie’s teammate and fellow Genesis Village resident Georgia Bayer, age 90, has been involved in Wii Bowling for three years now and says she loves the game simply for the thrill of it all. “This is such fun! It’s great exercise, and I really enjoy the camaraderie with other teams,” she says. Georgia notes that she’s been off her game lately—possibly because she’s letting go of the ball too soon—but she’s working hard to overcome that habit so she can improve her score.
Thomas Williams, 53, a member of the visiting 300 High Rollers, joined the team because he was looking for a way to stay active rather than just sit in his apartment. He quickly discovered that he loves Wii Bowling and has taught many other people how to play the game. “I’ve been involved for about 10 years now, and I find that Wii Bowling improves me both physically and mentally,” he says.
Among the teammates that Thomas has mentored is Ina Lyons, 80. As a former member of two bowling teams with over 40 years of experience, Ina learned to play the virtual version of the game quite rapidly. She, too, appreciates how Wii Bowling helps keep her active and healthy. “I’m 80 years old, and exercising is what keeps me going,” she states. “I’m always ready to play. I love the sport, and I love the camaraderie and sense of belonging I have with my teammates.”
Of course, it’s not just the competitors who enjoy Wii Bowling tournaments like the one held recently at Genesis Village, but also the spectators—many of whom are family members who come to cheer on their loved ones and simply join in the fun. For example, Anita Smith regularly attends tournaments to cheer on her mother, Mary Smith, 93. Anita says that Mary likes all sports, is very competitive, and enjoys Wii Bowling for the motivation and spirit. “Mom looks forward to playing and loves seeing everyone around her enjoy themselves. I enjoy it, too, for the people and good vibrations,” she adds. ❦