Wii be bowling: Auburn seniors hit virtual lanes for fun, exercise

Jim Granquist sends the bowling ball down the lane during a recent tournament between Auburn and Spokane seniors. Team Auburn cleaned up with a resounding match win.  - Mark Klaas/Auburn Reporter
Jim Granquist sends the bowling ball down the lane during a recent tournament between Auburn and Spokane seniors. Team Auburn cleaned up with a resounding match win.
— image credit: Mark Klaas/Auburn Reporter

Leaning on a walking cane, Jim Granquist carefully approached the monitor.

He sized up his target, clutched the "Wiimote" and with a quick flick of his right wrist spun the bowling ball down the lane.

Pins scattered, sparing only the stubborn No. 10, much to the chagrin of the quietly competitive Auburn man.

Undaunted, Granquist picked up the spare and kept his good game going.

"I was hoping for a 279, but I hit my average … 179," said a delighted Granquist, a retired Social Service worker who was recruited as a substitute player for Team Auburn. "I was hoping for a 279, but it doesn't always work out that way. … But this was great. I had fun."

Granquist joined the gang of regular Wii bowlers at the Auburn Senior Activity Center on a Friday for action and a chance to take down the visiting Spokane Strikers, who donned "Wii Goooood" purple T-shirts.

Auburn, led by its cast of all-star keglers, proved to be better, capturing 14 of the 15 games fought between teams of two.

"I don't think we treated Spokane very well," said one Auburn bowler with an apologetic grin.

Computer-driven and TV monitored-graced Wii bowling is popular with everybody, but perhaps even more so among seniors. The Nintendo Wii video game system has become a common scene in senior living homes in the area, and increasingly a part of programming in senior centers and retirement homes.

Each Wednesday, the Senior Activity Senior springs to life with three-hour bowling sessions spread over three "Wii lanes."

In-house bowling teams and area leagues are growing. Traveling teams are more common. As many as 35 bowlers come to the Auburn center each week to knock down pins, swap stories and share laughs.

The Wii develops hand-eye coordination and keeps the mind sharp. It can be challenging and aggravating. More important, it provides good physical activity and social interaction.

Just ask 82-year-old Jerry Iko, a retired Boeing worker. Iko, who regularly bowls perfect 300 games on the Wii, settled for a lofty 280 last week in the rout of Spokane.

"I'm an old man, crippled and walking with a cane, but doing something to stay active," Iko said. "This is addictive, very much so, but I do enjoy it."

The Wii keeps seniors in the game. For many who no longer can physically participate, virtual sports is a healthy option. The Wii system allows many people at the center to bowl despite their physical limitations.

Auburn's Shia Godwin is a quick study. She practices routinely and scores high. On this Friday, she rolled a coveted 300.

"I learned to control my curve," said Godwin, who carries an excellent average. "You have to know where your spots are, and you have to throw the ball consistently."

Ron and Elsie Walker enjoy the weekly games and camaraderie. They come for the competition but stay for the fellowship.

"It's great fun," Elsie Walker said. "You get to meet a lot of nice people and make friendships."

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