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It has been 30 years since 60-year-old Nancy Lineberry and her 62-year-old husband Roger have rolled a bowling ball, but recently Roger scored a 198 and Nancy a 168 at a game of bowling — on a Nintendo Wii, that is.
Since the Galax Recreation Center purchased the popular gaming system for the senior lounge, the Lineberrys said they can finally get back to the sports that they used to enjoy when they were younger, like golf, bowling, tennis and baseball.
And the best part is that the games feel like “the real thing,” said Nancy, as she uses the handheld controller and body motion to operate the bowling ball displayed on the television screen.
A distinguishing feature of the Wii — pronounced almost like “whee!” — console is its wireless controller, the Wii Remote, which is used as a handheld pointing device and detects motion by the twisting of the wrist or the shifting in the arms. These movements, used to play the games, are reflected on the television screen.
After playing it for the second time, the Lineberrys are amazed by the graphics the Wii produces on the TV screen, as well as the realistic motions. As Roger throws his arm back, swings it forward and twists his wrist, he said the movements make it feel as if a bowling ball is actually being thrown down the alley.
And as they compete against their friends — Gary, 76, and Shirley Stuart, 69 — it brings back memories of being at the bowling alley.
“It gives us something to do, and we do it for the fun of the games,” said Shirley. “It doesn't matter if you win or lose. It's just fun.”
The Lineberrys and the Stuarts said video games are not just for kids anymore, especially since figuring out the gadgets and the technology of the Wii system seems fairly simple.
“I didn't know anything about video games, but once I got into it I really liked it,” said Nancy. “Now that I know how to play, my nephew said we're going to have to have a family tournament.”
Nancy said now that she has played Wii games four times and intends to become a regular, the games challenge her mind, allow her to socialize with others that play at the senior lounge and give her and her husband a much-needed workout. Getting together with friends helps take the stress out of the day.
And that is what Michael Dees, the center's senior coordinator, had in mind when he was at Wal-Mart at 6 a.m. right before Christmas, standing second in line to purchase one of eight Wii gaming consoles for the senior lounge.
“It's a great exercise program and a way to have fun at the same time,” said Dees. “It gives these folks that enjoy sports, but can't play them anymore, the opportunity to stay active,” said Dees.
Dees said unlike other video games, this one requires gamers to stand on their feet and keep moving their arms and legs.
“It's very simple to operate because it is played by the movement of the hands, tossing and twisting of the body,” said Dees. “So it really opens it up for anybody.”
Nancy said playing the game became easy — it's beating her husband's score that's the tough part.
“He beats us every time,” she said. “But I'm gong to challenge him again.”
Roger said he is hoping that more seniors get involved in this activity at the senior lounge at the Galax Recreation Center to add to the challenge, as well as the fun.
Nintendo Wii has been a huge hit in nursing homes and hospitals as a part of patients' therapy routines to keep them active and social. And so far, it has been a great success at the Galax Recreation Center since its introduction last Tuesday.
Dees said the first day he heard comments like “'This is fun,' 'I didn't realize this was such a workout,' and 'Wait until the grandkids come,'” he said.
“Some seniors have never played before, or they hear about it through their grandkids and say 'I have to try that,'” said Dees. “Once you do, it becomes addictive.”
From yoga, exercising and shopping to playing carnival and sports games, there's just so much that can be done on a Wii.
If a Wii is hooked up to the Internet, people can even play games with others around the world, Dees noted.
Besides the Wii Sports games — such as baseball, tennis, boxing, golf and bowling — Dees has also purchased Wii carnival games and will add others to the collection as budget allows.
Dees said he plans to host a Wii bowling, golfing, tennis or baseball tournament in a couple of months, with a chance to win a trophy and a T-shirt.
• The activity is free to all seniors. The games are available on Tuesdays from 9 a.m.-noon. However, Dees said that after this month, Nintendo Wii should be available upon request to seniors. For more information, call the Galax Recreation Center at 236-3218.