Playing video games helps keep area seniors active
To learn more about The Elder-Wii Project or to donate, visit the fan page for "The Elder-Wii Project" on Facebook.
An account also has been set up for donations at Johnson Bank. People can stop at any bank location or send a check payable to "The Elder-Wii Project." Janesville branches are located at 1 S. Main St., 2021 Holiday Drive and 1309 Wright Road.
Elder Wii Project
Wii bowling at Cedar Crest Click to play
JANESVILLE Shirley Wachlin stepped up to the bowling "lane"—the aisle between several rows of chairs.
She grasped the "ball"—a video game controller—as her friends cheered her on.
"Strike!" one called after Wachlin, 79, released the ball and the sound of falling pins filled the room.
But one pin on the far right remained standing.
She stepped up and threw her second ball, which teetered on the edge of the lane until taking out the last pin.
"Nice spare," the Nintendo Wii game system told her.
Wachlin and her friends—Esther Young, 71; Betty Mueller, 80, and Genevieve Wickman, 95—meet weekly for their bowling league in an activity room at Cedar Crest. The independent living residents enjoy the video game because it's fun and provides exercise, they say.
It has become a common scene in area senior living homes. The popular Wii gaming system is increasingly part of programming in senior centers, nursing homes and senior homes.
"(The Wii) covers so many different areas," said Kathy Ruck, activity director at Huntington Place in Janesville. "Being able to be more physical again, to being able to revisit sports that we used to do and games that we used to do, creating more opportunities to use technology and more opportunities for intergenerational activities."
Huntington Place has had a handful of Wiis for almost two years, Ruck said.
"I think we have to be able to add these things as our population becomes more technically savvy," she said. "Nobody wants to take a step back."
More residents are bringing their own computers to their new homes and are comfortable with technology, she said. It's more common to be sitting in an activity and hear someone's cell phone ring, she said.
"We need to make sure we always are on the edge of what they would like to do," she said.
Some of the Wii bowling leagues in the area are similar to real bowling leagues.
Assisted living residents at Huntington have bowling league shirts and sometimes show up for practice outside of their league time. A tournament is being planned between the assisted living residents and independent living residents.
At Milton's senior center, The Gathering Place, local businesses can sponsor teams to help cover the cost of the end-of-the-league banquet, said Leigh Kuelz, program coordinator. Last year, nine teams competed in a nine-week league, and a new league starts next month.
Much of the exercise in Wii bowling is getting up and down from your chair, the women at Cedar Crest said.
"I honestly don't care what I bowl, it's just some exercise," Young said.
The Wii develops hand-eye coordination, Ruck said. Huntington Place also brings in student or 4-H groups to play with the seniors, creating an intergenerational experience, she said.
Mueller handed off the controller to the next player after leaving one pin standing.
"I gotta leave one once in awhile so you girls will play with me," she joked.
The women boast that Wickman, who just turned 95, is their top bowler.
She humbly denied the claims but not long after rolled a turkey, or three strikes in a row.
When the game finished, Mueller wrote down her score—she rolled a 248—in a notebook.
"It's fun to go back and look at them," she said.
Youngster giving Wiis to seniors
A Christmas trip to visit his great-grandmother in a nursing home sparked an ongoing service project for 10-year-old Lorenzo Little.
His trip to Heartsong Nursing Home in Belleville left an impression.
"(Residents) always look so bored," the Janesville boy said.
"So I thought that at home, if I enjoyed my Wii, why wouldn't they enjoy a Wii?" he said.
He talked with his parents, Greg and April, about his idea during the car ride home.
With their help, Lorenzo's goal is to raise money to put Nintendo Wii gaming systems in as many area assisted living and senior centers as possible. The "Elder-Wii Project" already has raised enough money to buy and deliver one Wii to the Heartsong Nursing Home.
Lorenzo started by calling family and friends to explain his project and seek donations.
"I ended with about $300 in a month," he said.
He's also been a guest on The Stan Milam Show on WCLO radio and has a Facebook fan group with more than 150 fans.
Lorenzo delivered the Wii to his great-grandmother's nursing home last month and showed her how to bowl and box on the gaming system.
He's raised more than $600, and a second Wii soon will be delivered to a yet-to-be announced senior home in the area. He's working on plans for his third donation.
Lorenzo and his parents are planning fundraisers to start in spring. GameStop in the Janesville Mall is working with the family to supply the Wiis.
Wiis come with a package of sports games, including bowling, tennis, golf and boxing. Lorenzo brought some of his personal games along for his great-grandmother to try, including Mario Kart, a go-cart-style racing game, "but that was probably a little fast," Lorenzo said.
"We're trying to keep their minds sharp, so (we'll) get games that appeal to seniors," he said.