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To Nintendo's surprise, Wii is hot with seniors

Retirement communities around the US are adding the video game to their rec rooms.

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Several times a week Sedgebrook holds Wii bowling nights, which begin after dinner and usually wrap up three hours later – unless the competition gets fierce. Most centers report that bowling is the hands-down favorite of the Wii game system, which also comes with golf, baseball, tennis, and boxing.

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"It's very addictive," Ms. Dierbach says. "Once you get your first 200 game, you've just got to keep going."

How to introduce Wii to the retired

Others don't quite have that problem. The Winona Senior Friendship Center in Winona, Mn., purchased the Wii this year with city money but, Malia Storovich, the center's director, says, "A lot of them come in for tai chi or yoga and then go home." She adds, "We think that we're going to have to market it a little more. We might have to do tournaments."

One hurdle, Ms. Storovich says, is that people aren't sure how to work it, so she recently had her staff draft some large-print instructions.

The Wabash County Council on Aging in Indiana used a county grant to buy its Wii this fall. Officials plan a launch party where teenagers – seasoned video-gamers – will be guides, says Beverly Ferry, the council's executive director. "We'll probably give a prize of some kind to everybody who tries it," she says.

In Allentown, Pa., 200 to 300 people arrive at the Lehigh County Senior Center daily for pursuits ranging from orchestra to ceramics. The center unveiled its Wii this fall and put it in the lunchroom. "They've got time to hang out there," says Rick Daugherty, executive director of the center.

The Wii isn't always a hub of activity – that is, until Eddie Smith, a former lightweight boxer from Philadelphia, fires it up and begins to throw punches on the Wii's boxing game.

"They watch me doing it, and I get a big crowd there," says Mr. Smith, a patron and part-time employee of the center. "Next thing you know, somebody will want to play."

For Smith, the game and the spectators offer an adrenaline rush that he hasn't experienced in decades. "When I score a knockdown, it actually feels like I'm going through it again. It's a good feeling," he says. "I imagine the people using this, it gives them self-confidence."

Plus, Smith says, it's a good workout, though not without its perils. "Jabbing and hooking, you've got to be careful," he says. "You can throw your arm out of whack."

Mr. Daugherty, himself an enthusiast of the boxing game, is grateful that "nobody's gotten injured," he says.

Smith says he's eager for Daugherty to buy a second video-game controller in hopes of a challenger. "I'll be glad when Rick gets the part where two people can box. Then I'm going to knock Rick out," Smith says, adding, "on TV, of course."