Nowadays, it’s no surprise to find a throng of Gen Y-ers glued to every new electronic gaming system that comes along. Especially popular among “leet” (that’s hip talk for “elite”) gamers is the Nintendo Wii. By using a special control device, this innovative system allows video game players to interact with the action on the screen: you can play golf, do step aerobics exercises, even sing karaoke. But who says these tricks are just for kids?
Technology Librarian Sue Scott teaches computer courses at the Marlboro Free Library. She noticed that her Internet demonstrations were a big hit with some of the library’s older visitors. At the same time, “I really wanted to bring gaming into the library,” she says. “I brought in the Wii thinking I’d get a lot of kids.” But the Wii Bowling game “just took off” with the library’s seniors, Scott says.
Joan Holt is president of the social club at the nearby Jenny’s Garden senior housing complex. She and some friends gathered at the library to put their virtual bowling skills to the test. “At first, we were a little skeptical,” she says of the Wii system. “We weren’t sure about the controllers. We’d press all the wrong buttons, and end up laughing. But we started to learn, and now we’re serious.”
Coed teams of four players — ranging in age from 49 to 94 — began to form; before long, there were enough teams for a bowling league. “We have the Grasshoppers, Jitterbugs, Hi-Los, Latecomers, and the Half-and-Halfs,” says Holt, who plays for the Grasshoppers (the name was chosen because “it seemed like we were always jumping up and down”). The game has become so popular that the Marlboro league now squares off — virtually, of course — against the libraries in Kent, Millerton, and Beacon; teams play in their home library, with the highest averages tracked by their respective librarians. “We won the Winter Classic!” exclaims Holt. “Someday we hope to visit the other libraries, maybe play a tournament against them. We’re always thinking ahead about other things we can do.”
So what attracts senior citizens to a kid’s game? “For the most part,” says Holt, “and for seniors especially, it’s all about getting some exercise with a bunch of wonderful people, and having some fun.”