Wii-living the good times

Published 3:12 pm Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Two friends are laughing, playing a Nintendo Wii game and beating the heat inside. It’s a common summer sight, right?

Well, except that the Wii-playing friends aren’t teenagers. Calera senior citizens Bill Stell and Wanda Reece are just two of the Wii fans at the Calera Senior Center, where manager Bo Parks-Robertson is learning about the game system right along with everybody else.

“I had seen a commercial about senior citizens using the Wii. On the commercial, they used it to exercise. I knew I wanted to get that,” Parks-Robertson said. “At first, we didn’t know what we were doing. We’re still learning how to play it.”

Senior center staff bought the Wii in May with funds from a County Commission grant worth $2,000. They also bought varied games as well as four Wii remote controllers so multiple people could play at once.

Parks-Robertson said the most popular game is a bass fishing game, because of its realism and the easy level of play.

“When you throw your line out there, you feel the vibrations and it’s like you have a fish,” she said. “You forget you’re playing a video game.”

Some of the seniors have been wary of the Wii because they think it’s tougher to play than it really is, Parks-Robertson said.

“I believe once we learn everything about how to play it, it’ll be a lot more popular. It’s already played every day,” she said.

Reece said she enjoyed the Wii because it allowed her to do activities, such as bass fishing or hunting, without actually being outside.

“I don’t tolerate the heat real well,” she said. “And I enjoy the shooting, but I don’t believe in killing anything. I don’t mind cartoon shooting, though.”

Reece said she wasn’t sure she’d be able to learn how to play at first, but she had seen the game system on TV and wanted to try it.

“I was a little nervous at first, but once you learn what you’re doing it’s better,” she said. “When we get older, we lose a lot of coordination. With the Wii, you don’t have to have a lot of coordination.”

Shelli Thomason, community services coordinator for the Shelby County Commission, said Wiis have been popular buys for senior centers.

“I think there are several that have already purchased them and are using them for recreation and exercise programs,” she said. “It’s movement that’s not too strenuous but it works muscles they haven’t used in awhile.”

Parks-Robertson said when she gets more grant money, she hopes to buy a Wii Fit, which comes with a balance board that gamers can use for exercise programs such as yoga.

“The women want to do more exercise,” she said. “Fishing and hunting’s mostly for men.”

The Wii’s popularity just shows that seniors are changing with today’s world, Thomason said.

“I think that the seniors are just looking for some new ways to have fun and new ways to stay active,” she said.