For a woman in her 90s, Mary Hyenga has quite an arm. Hyenga, a resident of the Knox County Nursing Home, spends some of her mornings lobbing pitches, swinging bats and throwing bowling balls in the nursing home’s recreation area, with the help of an activity aide -- and a Nintendo Wii.
For a woman in her 90s, Mary Hyenga has quite an arm.
Hyenga, a resident of the Knox County Nursing Home, spends some of her mornings lobbing pitches, swinging bats and throwing bowling balls in the nursing home’s recreation area, with the help of an activity aide -- and a Nintendo Wii.
Dressed in a pink cardigan with her fingernails painted to match, Hyenga has a sparkle in her eye as she waves the wireless Wii controller to mimic the athletic motions required to play sports in the virtual world provided by the popular game console.
When she watches her “actions” played out on a flat-screen TV, a smile spreads across her face.
“It’s easy to catch,” she said.
Knox County Nursing Home residents have had access to a Wii since late October, when director Marianne Wiesen decided it would be a good activity for the residents, particularly those who suffer from range of motion problems.
Since then, more and more nursing homes and assisted living facilities across the country have invested in the game console, including other local facilities such as Seminary Estates.
Known as Wii-habilitation, the use of the Wii by the elderly is considered good for them both emotionally and physically, although just like other forms of exercise it can cause injuries.
Residents of the Knox County Nursing Home are assisted by activities aides like Cindy Spry, who help the residents grasp the controller and mimic the motions required for Wii sports.
“They seem to enjoy it,” said Spry. “We try to make it seem like we’re outdoors playing baseball.”
For now, residents are only using Wii for recreation, but Margo Archie, an occupational therapist at the nursing home, said she hopes to formally incorporate the Wii into the physical therapy programs of patients soon.
“It’s therapeutic but it’s also fun,” Archie said, noting it can help with range of motion, balance and hand-eye coordination.
It can also make exercise and physical therapy -- not always the most enjoyable activities for residents -- seem like more fun, Archie said.
For Turner Markley, 93, formerly of Gilson, playing Wii baseball is a walk down memory lane. He played softball for Orange Chapel in a church league for many years with his son, Joe Markley, who visits him nearly every day in the nursing home.
Several years ago Turner Markley had a stroke. Movement on his left side is now restricted, but he can easily “pitch” and “bat” and “bowl” with his right hand using the Wii.
“I think it’s great for him not only physically but mentally,” said Joe Markley. “He’s interested in it and enjoys it.”
A retired farmer, Turner Markley has led an active life and often wants to perform the physical activities his body won’t quite let him do anymore. But what he enjoys most about the Wii is the chance to feel competitive.
“I just like the sport of it,” he said.
Around 20 of the residents have tried playing the Wii and others have enjoyed the action as spectators, so that even those who aren’t participating physically are still benefitting.
“Anything that makes them feel good is good therapy,” Wiesen said.
Jane Carlson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org