Washington residents stay mentally fit playing Nintendo Wii video games

Christina Smith
Virtual golf: Jane Huber, a Washington Christian Village resident, swings her arm to hit the golf ball in the Nintendo Wii golf game April 30. Jim Gorby, chaplain at WCV, said the Washington Christian Village Auxiliary purchased the game for the nursing home six weeks ago.

Sitting or standing, Nintendo Wii allows seniors the chance to bowl, golf and play tennis or baseball.

Now, Washington Christian Village residents can play on their own Wii, thanks to a gift from the Washington Christian Village Auxiliary members.

Jim Gorby, chaplain at the village, said the residents received the Wii about six weeks ago.

“It’s really good exercise and they (residents) have fun with it,” Gorby said.

Activity assistant Angelia Smith schedules time for residents to use the Wii.

“Not everyone wants to play, but some residents come and watch or cheer others on,” Gorby said.

Since the Wii games involve hand and eye coordination and a range of motion, Gorby said the WCV’s physical therapy staff is interested in using the games for physical therapy.

“I had fun,” Jane Huber, a resident, said.

“This is the first time I’ve really played the games.”

Minnie Smith, another resident, said her favorite game was the bowling game.

“It was kind of fun,” Smith said.

“It’s (Wii) brought out more people that might not normally participate in games,”

Nora Hile, an activity assistant at WCV, said. “The nice thing about the Wii is that different people are coming together to play or watch.”

Gorby said use of the Wii games continues to increase.

“I’ve noticed more and more nursing homes are getting Wiis,” Gorby said.

Other communities

Walking into the Fon du Lac Park District Administration building Thursday afternoon, one could hear cheers and groans coming from one of the meeting rooms.

Seniors came to play Nintendo Wii bowling and offered encouragement or sympathy with each strike or gutter ball someone bowled.

Gina Bartelmay, senior/adult program advisor for Fon du Lac Park District, said seniors, ages 55 and older, come to the administration building once a month to play the bowling game, which is free for seniors.  

For Collene Boys, playing the game comes naturally. Boys said she bought a Wii a few months ago and bowls better in the game than she does in real life.

Cliff Hahn of Washington said he first played the game in March and brought his wife, Rachel, with him this time.

“I enjoyed it,” Hahn said.

“It was fun,” Margaret Weygand, also of Washington, said. “It could become addictive.”

Benefits for seniors

Linc Hobson, co-owner of Home Instead in Morton, with his wife, Dana Hobson, said video games offer a socializing opportunity for seniors and the chance to learn something new.

“You can do it sitting down or in a wheelchair, which helps seniors who are not as active as other seniors,” Hobson said.

Hobson said the game requires seniors to use their minds to figure out how the controller works, along with exercising their arms to “throw” the ball down the lane.

Bartelmay, Hobson and Beth Squires, activities director at John Evans, a new supportive living facility in Pekin, decided to schedule a Wii tournament in June at the administration building in East Peoria.

East Peoria and other Tazewell County seniors will compete against residents from John Evans at 10 a.m. June 5.

“We are excited and hope we do well,” Squires said. “The residents are looking forward to the competition.”

Dawn Graves, who works at Home Instead, said there will probably be two Wiis going so that four seniors can play at the same time until about 1 p.m., since lunch will be provided.

Bartelmay said winners will receive either a trophy or a medal and the title of the first Wii tournament champion.