And the numbers bear that out. The Atlanta Regional Commission aging program reports that of the 46 senior centers it works with in metro Atlanta, 21 recently obtained the console that took the nation by storm in 2006. That includes centers in Fulton, Cobb, Clayton, DeKalb and Gwinnett counties.
Five centers in Cobb County have hopped on the Wii bandwagon over the past year, with officials citing its social, physical and competitive benefits.
“It has really taken off,” said Kathy Lathem, a coordinator with Cobb County’s Senior Services Department. “Our seniors seem to love it because it gets them out of the chair.”
The North Cobb Senior Center in Acworth unveiled the Wii to about 30 seniors at a luncheon recently. An instructor briefed them on how to grip the controller, fasten the wrist strap and play ball — baseball and bowling, that is.
“Why Wiis are so great ... is that it keeps their minds active and keeps them physically active,” said Nysia Lanier, president of the Senior Citizen Council of Cobb County, which donated the game to the centers.
Physicians agree. Dr. David Burke, chairman of the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine at Emory University, said Wii can increase mobility, strengthen balance and enhance hand-eye coordination. But beyond the physical benefits, Burke said, Wii motivates players with its personalized touch of sound and scenery.
“It provide a rich environment, even if it is virtual, for people to engage in an activity,” Burke said. “Think of how many stairclimbers or exercise bikes end up as being clothes racks in people’s homes. This is just the beginning of what will be a revolution.”
In addition to Wii’s health benefits, officials in Cobb and Gwinnett say the game triggers socialization and fellowship and fuels the competitive spirit.
As Wii’s participation and popularity soar, especially for bowling, centers are beginning to compete in virtual tournaments, said Clotfelter of the Snellville Senior Center.
“We need to get serious about our competitions,” she said. “It may end up in the Senior Olympics. You never know.”
Jean King, 74, of Kennesaw used to bowl years ago. A first-time Wii player at the North Cobb Senior Center, King grabbed the controller and knocked down pins like a pro.
“It’s a fun game,” she said. “I think I’ll buy one for myself for Christmas.”