1 of 2
2 of 2
Like many other parents around the United States, Jessica Goff brought home a Nintendo Wii gaming console for her daughter’s birthday last year. However, she soon realized the interactive games were something the whole family could enjoy.
So Goff, director of resident life and volunteer services at Rockynol retirement community in Akron, thought Rockynol residents might enjoy the games, as well.
She was right.
Goff says she managed to track down one of the popular consoles for Rockynol around January 2008, and it has been used in the assisted living quarters ever since. With virtual experiences in sports such as bowling, boxing and golf, residents who may no longer be physically able to perform the activities can now virtually involve themselves in once treasured pastimes.
Since then, two more units have been purchased for the rehabilitation and independent living centers.
“It’s something different, something new,” Goff says of the Wii’s presence at Rockynol. “So many of [the residents] did these things in their former lives—it keeps them active and they have fun.”
Goff feels the Wii is a valuable addition to the residents’ lives, adding a new exercise and social component to regular activities. And although she says some residents don’t use the Wii at all, they come during game time to get involved in the fun and cheer on fellow residents who are playing the games.
In addition to the Wii system, Goff says Rockynol will soon receive an [m]Power Cognitive Fitness System, a computer program that helps to stimulate brain function. The program, geared mainly toward seniors, is a series of interactive and mentally challenging games containing pieces of nostalgia, such as film clips and song snippets, which senior users may recognize.
Goff says the online system can identify residents who sit down to play by retina recognition, and in addition to mentally stimulating players, can also help medical professionals spot medical conditions ahead of time, such as an impending stroke, through analysis of decreased motor or mental function.
Old Grandma Hardcore
Seniors playing video games may seem a rather unusual concept to some, but 72-year-old gamer Barbara St. Hilaire has discovered she is only one among thousands.
A “gamer,” defined as one who plays a game, especially a role-playing or computer game, is a term typically associated with baggy-pants wearing youths crowded around gaming consoles in dingy basements for hours on end.
St. Hilaire, known as “Old Grandma Hardcore” in the blog devoted to her gaming experiences, says she was surprised when she discovered how many elderly people are avid video gamers like her. “I do think it helps keep you young,” Mantua resident St. Hilaire says. “I’m surprised how much I have in common with [younger] gamers.”
St. Hilaire says because she doesn’t have the money to traverse the globe as she would like, gaming is her way of traveling.
Also, her game playing has allowed her to cultivate an “extended family” of gamers through her blog, at
“There are so many elderly people out there who are playing, and they’re playing everything, just like I am,” she explains, stating first-person shooters and role-playing games top the list as her favorite games to play.
Despite her laid-back attitude toward gaming and how much she feels games have connected her with a younger audience, St. Hilaire refuses to wear a headset during online gaming (which allows gamers to “talk” and connect virtually with other gamers who play on the same gaming interface). While she says she may occasionally curse at her television out of frustration during her games, her television doesn’t have feelings, and she doesn’t like to hear the language used by some of the younger gamers in the online world.
As for why she and grandson Timothy St. Hilaire blog about her gaming experiences?
“Tim and I are both into trying to make it easier for elderly people and women to be accepted as gamers.”
St. Hilaire says gaming has helped bring her out of her shell, and Goff sees similar benefits among Rockynol residents, both those who use the Wii and those who come as spectators and supporters.
“Just getting out and being around people helps add to their self-esteem and their self-confidence,” Goff says.