Talking about which computer game you prefer is hardly the usual subject of conversation you’d expect from a group of people mostly in their 70s and 80s.
But then, in Wigan at least, pensioners have been ditching the knitting needles of retirement, preferring instead to pick up a controller from a Nintendo Wii games console!
Wii Fit is helping older people across the borough feel more confident, healthier and happier. And it’s all to do with balance.
The computer game, which offers such sports as virtual golf, tennis and tenpin bowling, relies on players mimicking the games' physical actions, which are then played out on screen.
In 2009 Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust’s Active Living team introduced pilot programmes in some council day centres designed to improve older people’s balance by using games such as table tilt and slalom.
It’s been such a hit they’re now looking to extend the scheme. For Agnes Ashurst there’s no doubt this wireless technology is making a difference. “We all check who gets the most points,” smiles the 68-year-old. “It’s fun as well as exercising. It’s something we really look forward to.”
Sitting patiently Marjorie Pilling, 83, Margaret Lynskey, 70, Bessie Knowles, 87, and Wallace Else, 75, are all eagerly waiting their turn as Agnes shifts her weight from left leg to right on the Wii board. Her on screen character follows her every move, hurtling down the piste at 60mph dodging red and blue flags along the way.
“It’s a challenge,” says Bessie, the oldest in the group, “but it’s also a lot of fun. “You feel you have done something, you feel very good about yourself afterwards.”
Game on: Margaret Lynskey takes control.
Many of the older people suffer from osteoporosis; some have arthritis while others have suffered falls and broken bones in the past. Helping to improve their balance is key to not only improving their physical health but also their mental wellbeing.
All of those in the room praise the idea and their instructor Hazel Denney, WLCT’s community officer.
Hazel said: “As you get older you lose balance and control which affects your confidence. The Wii Fit programme improves balance and confidence and because it’s fun, you improve without realising it.”
Care assistant Sue Speakman works at the council’s Central Day Centre on Sullivan Way near Wigan town centre. She said: “It’s such a valuable tool. It increases confidence, allows those taking part to exercise, socialise and increases their flexibility all in one go.”
Wigan’s Active Living team are now considering trialling the programme in community centres. For more information call 01942 488 485.