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Seniors join teens in enthusiasm for Wii virtual gaming


Elsie DelGrego expertly sent her bowling ball whizzing down the lane. The pins crashed. Strike!

It was just like when she was in a bowling league, years ago in Connecticut before she retired and moved to Sun City Center.

But this time, it all took place on a giant projection screen. She was bowling with Nintendo's Wii.

DelGrego is part of a growing number of seniors who love the interactive gaming system that Nintendo originally aimed for a younger market.

The system has been popping up in retirement centers across the country.

The SouthShore Regional Library hosted a tournament last week aimed specifically at DelGrego's generation. After a few spares, she said she thinks she'll buy one.

"I'd like to play golf," she said.

SouthShore library's technical assistant Bill Harris launched these Wii events after he heard it was popular in nursing homes.

He persuaded his friend John Bowker, 79, to play. Bowker grumbled at first. He thought video games were dumb. But he was surprised how much fun he had playing bowling, tennis and golf.

"I needed a shower after all that exercise," he said.

At the library, teens who get community service credit run the tournaments.

Heather Wilkins, 15, said she enjoyed teaching the adults how to use the technology.

"I thought the Wii was going to be for teenagers," she said. "But when the seniors played with it, they sort of felt like they were kids."

At one recent gaming event, a 103-year-old man won, Harris said.

"It's very cool to see the reactions of the seniors as they learn how to play these games," he said.

Sometimes those reactions include frustration.

DelGrego scrunched her nose when she left two pins standing. A split.

"Can't get 'em all," she said, laughing. She won with a score of 176.

On the other side of the room, Lewis Riley, 84, thunked the ball down on the virtual lane. He left a few pins standing, but he smiled anyway.

"It's good exercise," he said.

Riley golfs three days a week, but he said the game is especially good for seniors whose health limits their activity.

"For people who can't lift a heavy ball, it's great," he said.

He plans to bring his wife, who has a bad hip, to one of the upcoming Wii events at the library. It was a lot more fun than he thought it would be.

"It's sophisticated," he said.

And there's another perk, Bowker said. The game helps seniors relate to their grandchildren, he said. It opens new avenues of communication.

He hopes to play with his grandchildren — one a senior in high school, the other a college student — when he and his wife visit them in August.

"At least we'll be able to run the equipment, so we don't look like old fogies," he said.

Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at or (813) 661-2443.

If you go

Wii gaming for seniors

Where: SouthShore Regional Library, 15816 Beth Shields Way, Ruskin

When: Sunday at 2 p.m., July 14 at 4:30 p.m., July 25 at 2 p.m., Aug. 13 at 4 p.m., Aug. 29 at 2 p.m.

For more information: Call the Tampa-Hillsborough Public Library System at (813) 273-3652 or visit

Seniors join teens in enthusiasm for Wii virtual gaming 06/18/09 [Last modified: Thursday, June 18, 2009 4:30am]
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