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Seniors enjoy virtual bowling in St. Ignatius

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ST. IGNATIUS — You’d think a junior high girls’ group was having a party, with all the squeals and giggles coming from inside the St. Ignatius Senior Citizens Center Monday morning. But it was just a bunch of senior ladies enjoying their weekly Wii bowling session, a tradition that started several months ago when the senior center received a grant from the St. Ignatius Old Town Commission to purchase a Wii game system, flat screen television and TV stand.

The idea was that the Wii would provide members with a fun way to get some exercise, by playing Wii Sports and using the Wii Fit program. While there aren't any workout classes scheduled yet, the games have been a big hit at the center.

"For now it's just fun," board member Mack McConnell said. “They haven’t set up a league yet, (but) the same gals get together every Monday."

They play three games, rotating out players (four people can bowl at a time) so everyone gets a turn and a chance to beat Peg Johnson, who's taken her spot at the top of the bowling "totem pole." 

“Once Peg gets started, she’s pretty much unbeatable,” McConnell said.

Johnson, an avid league bowler, hasn’t found that practice on the Wii helps her live game much, though. But during one virtual game Monday morning, she scored five strikes in a row, drawing a chorus of exclamations from her competitors.

“I wish I could do that at the bowling alley,” she said.

For these women, the real fun isn’t in the competition — the game offers them the chance to socialize while getting a bit of exercise, all comfortably indoors. 

“We all enjoy it a lot,” Johnson said.

And they enjoy all the humorous details of learning to play a video game later in life, like designing their own Miis, the digital avatars that represent each player in the Wii games. The Miis can be customized to look like each person, but “everybody picks what they want to look like,” McConnell joked.

Another perk of the game system is there are virtually no physical restrictions to playing, since the player controls his actions with a mere flick of the wrist. 

“The nice thing about it (is) it’s so easy, you could do it from a wheelchair,” McConnell said.

That's one of the reasons why McConnell said Wiis are growing in popularity with senior citizens across the country. Who knows, maybe the St. Ignatius bowlers will take their act on the road one day and challenge some other Wii enthusiasts.

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