Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Aging in Place Wednesday

Each Wednesday, Laurie Orlov, tech industry veteran, writer, speaker, elder care advocate and Faculty Advisor for the Aging in Place Technology Department at Computer School for Seniors will be sharing her insightful research on how seniors can safely and successfully live independent lives in the home of their choice.


Children are growing up with modern technology. A two year old sits in his car seat playing games on his Mom’s IPhone as she drives him to pick up his sister from kindergarten. When they arrive back home they both head to the TV to play video games. But there is a new video game that is sweeping the country and is being embraced as much by seniors as it is by the kids and teens. It’s Wii time!

Wii Fitness: It's not just for teens

Linda Kirby had never played a Wii before she picked up a controller at SHARE Club North, a local senior center for residents.


COURTESY PHOTOS Seniors at SHARE Club North Center recently participated in a bowling tournament using the Nintendo Wii gaming system.

"I love it," she said, swinging her arm and simultaneously releasing the trigger on the remote to virtually knock down some pins. Unlike traditional video game systems controlled by a player's thumbs and fingers, Wii games respond to a player's body movements.

Kirby used to actively play sports before her bad hip forced her to give them up. Wii Bowling enables her to continue one of her favorite pastimes without the pain a "real" game of bowling could incite. "I can do this like I used to bowl. It keeps me up on my feet and gives me some exercise," she said.

Bowling and other sports games from Nintendo's Wii gaming system arrived at the SHARE Club North location in March, and the software — perhaps better known for getting tech-loving kids and their parents off the couch — is quickly gaining traction with seniors in Southwest Florida.


Nntendo's Wii gaming system.

Even Nintendo has taken note of the appeal to baby boomers and older users. Though the demographic breakdown is not available at this time, said Denise Kaigler, vice president of corporate affairs for Nintendo of America. "We know a lot of senior communities are having fun with Wii."

Sue Maxwell, MSW, system director of gerontology for Lee Memorial Health System, agreed that Wii is just plain fun.

"We really feel that senior centers need to offer different opportunities for sports and physical activity other than just the usual swimming pool and pool table. Wii fills that need for something different," she said. "Besides exercise, it provides lots of opportunities for socialization and team building."

Gaming systems could mean added years to your life.

Wii is one way to get 30 minutes of exercise per day, as recommended by the American Heart Association.

"If unable to do other exercises or get to the gym, this type of individualized computer program is a great way to do something physical," said Dr. Lacagnina. "Anything that gets people off the couch and moving is a step in the right direction."

Wii is also useful for maintaining memory.

"Anything that gets your attention is better than something you get bored with. Research has shown that video and computer games interest people," said Dr. Michael Raab, a local geriatrician who works with Lee Memory Care.

The new Wii Fit program rolled out about a year ago and involves a pressure sensitive balance board and comes with 40 exercise-oriented games, including yoga, soccer and ski-jumping.

"Wii Fit will tell you how long it's been since you logged in last and gives you computerized encouragement. So Wii has the interest factor and the record keeping ability," Dr. Raab said.

"Regular exercise can help with balance, cardiovascular health and strength," Dr. Raab said. "In addition, people who participate in regular physical activity experience less memory loss over time."

Information about the Wii:

Nintendo released the Wii gaming system in November 2006. . About 19.6 million consoles have been sold in the U.S. . Among the Wii sports available are tennis, baseball, golf, bowling and boxing. . Wii Fit, launched in May 2008, involves a pressure-sensitive balance board and comes with 40 exercise oriented games, including yoga, ski jumping and hula-hooping.

For more information, visit Laurie at and at the Aging in Place Technology Department at http://

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