Janesville25.3°

Seniors, students strike up a friendship

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Stacy Vogel
February 13, 2008
— Milton senior citizens no longer need to find a bowling alley to knock over a few pins.

They just visit The Gathering Place with their friends from the Milton, Edgerton, Clinton Alternative School for a rousing game of “Wii Sports.”


Senior citizens aren’t typically a big market for video games. But the seniors at The Gathering Place caught on quickly Tuesday to the latest Nintendo game system, Wii, which allows players to simulate actual experiences, such as bowling, with a wireless remote.


The phenomenon appears to be nationwide. Recent articles from The Associated Press and the Chicago Tribune note the Wii’s popularity with senior citizens and people in physical rehabilitation. The controller is easy to use, and the games get players active and moving.


Paula Schutt, the new executive director at The Gathering Place, tried the game in December and knew she wanted to bring it to the senior center.


“It’s challenging,” she said Tuesday. “The seniors are loving it.”


Two 16-year-old MECAS students, Bryce Cox and Brett Carroll, brought the Wii to The Gathering Place with their adviser, Lance Knudsen, as part of their school volunteer requirements.


They showed a dozen senior citizens how to play, though Knudsen did most of the talking.


“It looks so easy,” one person murmured as Knudsen rolled a spare.


Peg Sayre, 95, was the first senior to try the game. She had a little trouble with the buttons at first but eventually knocked down six pins.


On her second roll, she accidentally twisted her wrist, and the ball grazed past the remaining four pins, drawing “awes” from the crowd.


“It’s kind of fun,” Sayre said afterward. “You can really work that out.”


Sayre never played video games before Tuesday, but she bowled in several leagues when she was younger and said the game almost felt like real bowling.


She appreciated the students who showed them how to play, she said.


“They were very nice, helpful, and didn’t laugh at us,” she said.


The students appreciate the chance to work with an older generation, too, Cox said. He also plays pool with seniors at The Gathering Place on Tuesday afternoons.


“They’ll tell us stuff they’ve done, and it’s just interesting talking with them,” he said.


The two generations will have at least a few more opportunities to interact over the Wii. The Gathering Place has two more video game sessions scheduled this month. Students might try to teach the seniors other sports on the system, such as golf and tennis, they said.


Schutt hopes the center can get its own system soon and start a bowling league.


“It’s just fun to get together with friends and have a good time,” she said. “No matter what age you are, people like that.”


If you go

What: “Wii Sports” sessions for senior citizens


When: 10 a.m. Tuesdays, Feb. 19 and 26.


Where: The Gathering Place, 715 Campus St., Milton.


More info: Call (608) 868-3500.



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