Weiss Stories

Wii Party: Virtual Games, Real Fun

<more Weiss Stories>

Seniors have a blast at the WISE Wii party.

Game on: Competitors play Wii at the WISE Senior Center.

In a 20-by-20-foot room on an otherwise ordinary Thursday afternoon, Flora Holtrop played tennis. She raced cows. And she bowled.

“Come on, come on,” Holtrop mumbled to herself as she watched her bowling ball roll down the alley lane. The room of people behind her cheered as pins crashed to the floor—especially enthusiastic because Holtrop had mastered a key part of the game: the Wii remote—or “Wii-mote.” The technique may look simple, but learning the exact moment to swing and when to let go of certain buttons takes definite effort.

Holtrop was at a Wii party this past July, hosted by the WISE Senior Center at Weiss Memorial Hospital and open to all seniors in the area. Like most of the dozen other people in attendance, Holtrop had never played the Nintendo Wii game system.

“Don’t worry, you’ll get it!” coached Abigail Lochotzki, senior center coordinator, as the participants each took a turn facing the screen.

Lochotzki organized the Wii party along with Michelle Moran, director of marketing at Warren Barr Pavilion, a skilled rehabilitation facility in Chicago’s Gold Coast. Earlier this year, Moran approached Lochotzki with the idea on behalf of Warren Barr.

“Wii is for everyone,” the Nintendo Web site proclaims. “The ease of use and interactivity of the Wii remote allows for a unique social gaming experience for the whole family.”

Holtrop had seen and heard the advertisements. When she noticed the party fliers posted around Weiss, she decided to check out the gaming system first-hand. “I wanted to find out what it was like,” she said.

In addition to the party, Holtrop also attends medical lectures at Weiss and tai chi classes that the Senior Center offers. Of the two hours she spent playing, watching others and conversing with her opponents, Holtrop said she had fun. “It’s something for me to look forward to, something for me to do.”

The July event was the second Wii party that the Senior Center has hosted, and at both events Warren Barr acted as sponsor, awarding gift cards to places such as Jewel-Osco and Starbucks as raffle prizes.

“Oh yea!” Amparo Perez cheered when Moran called her name. “I never win anything.” Then she pulled out a magnifying glass with which to see her prize, a $10 gift certificate for Jewel-Osco.

Lochotzki said she hopes to instate the Wii parties monthly. “People said they liked it (the first time) and that they’d try it again,” she said. “It gives them a lot of socialization. They’re out of their houses. They’re moving.”

Wii spices things up for seniors.At the party, senior Arnold Klein, in a pale blue t-shirt and jean shorts, stared down the screen, trying to figure out the exact moment to let go of the Wii-mote’s “B” button in order to ensure good speed on his bowling ball. “It was pretty neat,” he said, after chiding himself for playing like “one of the girls.”

Klein attended the party because he received a flier about it in the mail. “I just wanted to see what it was about,” he said. He had heard of the Wii and of people lining up outside of stores to get one over the holidays.
However, Klein attended the event out of more than curiosity. “I’m a senior, and it’s so important to keep busy,” he said.

And Klein does exactly that; he volunteers at Mather LifeWays, Uptown Ministry and with the Chicago Police Department. During the holidays, he plays a professional Santa Claus (also, formerly, the Easter Bunny), and carries photographs in his wallet as proof. He exercises, too.

Raffle winner Perez echoed Klein’s words. “I feel lonely in my home. Getting out makes me feel better,” she said. “God bless everyone here for doing this.”

To find out when the next Wii party is scheduled, check out the Weiss Calendar.