Boy Scout rolls out a Wii for seniors

If you haven’t heard, senior citizens are some of the biggest fans of the Nintendo Wii System, especially for the purpose of playing Wii Sports.

If you haven’t heard, senior citizens are some of the biggest fans of the Nintendo Wii System, especially for the purpose of playing Wii Sports.

The surprisingly lifelike feel of playing virtual games such as Wii Bowling or Tennis provides exercise with less physical strain than playing the real games. Plus, practicing Wii Sports fosters social interaction that many older people miss.

Thanks to Brandt Elison, an Eagle Scout candidate from Kirkland and classmates from the Lake Washington High School Electronic Entertainment Club, the Redmond Senior Center (RSC) is now equipped with Wii in its fireplace lounge. The game system is the perfect complement to a new 52-inch flat screen HDTV acquired with money donated by Merrill Gardens, a retirement and assisted living home in Kirkland.

Elison and his friends Lexi Bennigson and Jason Yabandeh delivered and hooked up the Wii System on Wednesday afternoon and gave a group of eager seniors chances to test their skills.

To raise money for the Wii System, Elison organized a Nov. 14 game night at the RSC, charging a $10 admission fee. Teens and seniors mingled while enjoying a variety of games in the center’s multi-purpose room. A good time was had by all, according to Teri Burke, RSC program coordinator.

This wasn’t the first time she’d been approached by students wanting to tie Eagle projects into community service at the RSC, Burke explained.

“But this was the first time I’ve been able to approve one, because there was an unmet need,” she said.

The center already has a garden and didn’t need a new bookcase or anything of that sort, but the staff is always looking for ways to give seniors fun and mentally stimulating activities outside of their homes.

“I liked the aspect of getting teens and seniors together,” said Elison, who’s turning 18 next week and therefore, wrapping up his Eagle project.

The seniors on-hand for Wednesday’s Wii installation included Ray Anspach, who got a kick out of creating his “Mii,” a Wii character that looked like him.

Bennigson coached Anspach on how to select the character’s height and body type, face shape, hairstyle and other features.

As the Wii Bowling demonstration commenced, Anspach knocked down nine pins on the first try. RSC employee Wanda Sweeney playfully chided him when he got a gutter ball on the next try.

Burke pointed out that Sweeney had “an unfair advantage,” since she received a Wii System for her most recent birthday.

Anspach told Sweeney, “You realize you aren’t making any friends,” as the friendly competition continued.

A member of Boy Scout Troop 630, sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Kirkland, Elison said he had seen news reports about the number of seniors getting hooked on Wii and wanted to tie his own interest in video games into doing something that would benefit others.

The RSC is forming a Wii Bowling League and Elison will return to help participants learn about that and other Wii games. He’s also in the Robotics and Math Clubs at Lake Washington High and plays piano and trumpet. He hopes to pursue a science-related or music career after completing a church mission.

The Redmond Senior Center, 8703 160th Ave. NE, will be closed for annual maintenance and the winter holidays, from Wednesday, Dec. 24 through Tuesday, Jan. 6.

The Wii Bowling League begins Feb. 11 with round-robin play every Wednesday at 9 a.m. Teams of four should register by Feb. 4 and there is a $20 registration fee. For information, call (425) 556-2314.