Seniors get in on gaming with Wii


Messenger photo by Whitney Wilson Coy

The Wii, an interactive gaming console from Nintendo, gives senior citizens a unique opportunity to join their grandchildren in a favorite pastime.

Video games aren’t just for kids anymore.

Once thought to be a form of entertainment reserved for children and young adults, game consoles have found their way into a surprising new place – inside the hearts, and homes, of senior citizens.

Wii, the latest in a long line of consoles from Nintendo, brings the term “interactive gaming” to a whole new level.

The Wii remote, which is shaped like a television remote control rather than the standard, two-handed controller of video games past, brings a sense of familiarity to those not accustomed to the world of video games. Using the latest in motion-sensing technology, players are transported into the games they play as they watch their on-screen character (aptly called “Mii’s) play out the motions they make in their own living rooms.

“Other game controllers often require players to master a complicated set of buttons to be able to play. That’s a huge hurdle for someone who has never played before,” said Denise Kaigler, vice president of corporate affairs for Nintendo.

Perhaps the most noticeable difference between the Wii and other consoles is that the Wii is helping video games shed their “couch potato” reputation. It offers players a way to be active and have fun in the comforts of their own homes.

No longer can a player simply sit for hours and idly stare at the television, their fingers the only moving parts of their bodies. To be a success in the world of Wii, one has to get up and move around.

In the game, “Wii Sports,” which is sold with the console, players have a choice of tennis, boxing, baseball, bowling and golf. Anywhere from one to four players can participate, swinging the remote like a racket, bat or club, or using it to throw a punch at the opponent standing next to you.

According to Kaigler, bowling and golf tend to top the list with the 60-plus crowd.

Also available is “Wii Fit,’ which features balance and aerobic activities for players of all ages and fitness levels.

“We have heard time and again that Wii and Nintendo DS (a hand-held gaming console sold by Nintendo) game play have helped seniors stay engaged with their grandchildren and participate in ‘sports’ that they had to give up years before due to health issues,” said Kaigler.

The Wii also offers games that can be enjoyed with little energy required. “Big Brain Academy: Wii Degree” helps people of all ages keep their minds sharp with quizzes and brain teasers that are sure to get you thinking.

Kaigler noted that aside from the physical and mental benefits that players of all ages are sure to get from the Wii, the console has a social component as well.

“Whether people are playing in their living room or with a group of friends at a retirement community, everyone likes to play, and it’s even fun to watch,” she said.

“Wii games are easy to pick up and play,” she added. “We find that Wii bridges that technology gap and lets multiple generations play together.”

While most of today’s teenagers have grown up playing video games, many seniors are trying their hand at the popular pastime for the very first time.

“I think one thing you’re seeing now that’s different from the past is that teens and their grandparents are able to play together,’ Kaigler said.

According to Kaigler, no one at Nintendo was surprised to see senior citizens take such a liking to the Wii.

“The only real surprise was how fast the phenomenon spread among baby boomers and seniors,” she added.

The only ones that were surprised, it turns out, where the grandkids. 

“I think a lot of younger players are shocked to see their grandparents joining in their video gaming hobby – and even beating them,” said Kaigler.

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