Wiis are for the young at heart

Story and photo by Kelli Coomes

Farrell Sorensen eagerly awaits the arrival of his great-granddaughters.

“What are we playing today?” the three girls ask in unison. Hallie, 8, Hannah, 6, and Hollie, 4, are spending the day with their great-grandparents.

“What do you want to play?” Farrell Sorensen asks.

“Baseball!”

“Tennis!”

“Bowling!”

“How about we play all three?” Farrell suggests. “We’ll take turns.”

His wife, Darla, comes in and sets up the only modern technology in the house that she’s figured out: the Nintendo Wii. Remotes get handed around and the games begin.

The four run around the room, squeals coming from the girls and laughter from Farrell. A whirlwind of motion continues for most of the day, stopping only long enough to change games and players. As more family come to visit, teenagers and adults take turns playing with the grandparents and the girls.

The children tire before the Sorensens are done playing.

“They used to be too shy to talk to us,” Darla said. “We’re too old, we make them nervous. But now they come over all the time and love to spend time with us.”

There is a computer in the house, but they have a hard time figuring out how to use it. Their grandson, Jason Sorensen, 29, has been over many times to teach and re-teach them how to use the Internet, e-mails and how to save the photos they take. They can work the TVs and the radio, but that’s about it. They’ve broken three karaoke machines so far.

“They’re fine until they press buttons or try to explore on their own,” Jason said. “It’s the joke in the family to not let them touch electronics.”

But Farrell, 86, and Darla, 84 have found a way to bridge the age differences in their family. The Wii has brought five generations together under their roof.

“Now they all come to us,” Farrell said with a smile. “Used to be we’d see everyone around family reunions and holidays. Now they don’t ever leave.”
They own family games like “Wii Sports,” “Mario Party 8,” “Mario Kart,” “Pokémon” and other games the younger kids can play. They also have games for the teenagers and adults who come to visit, such as “Zelda,” “SoulCalibur” and “Brunswick Bowling.”

When the grandkids first gave Farrell and Darla the Wii, it was Christmas and they couldn’t figure out what it was. Their grandsons, Jason and Casey Walker, 30, had to come show them what it was and how to hook it up.

“They were afraid to touch the Wii,” Casey said. “We went over a few times until we were sure they had it figured out.”

“It’s easier than most electronics,” Darla said. “There aren’t a lot of buttons to push and the words on the screen are big enough for us to see.”

Farrell grins as he catches his breath. “It’s easy to use and gives us a great time with the grandkids and great-grandkids. Best present the youngsters ever gave us.”

Farrell mostly only uses it for when his great-grandkids come to play with him. He enjoys the time they spend together. “Keeps me young at heart,” he said.

The adults enjoy watching the kids play with the grandkids. “It’s nice to have your kids begging to see their great-grandparents,” Sandy Sorensen said. “Plus, you get a free babysitter when you need one. The grandparents would love to take them for a day.”

Darla loves to play with the kids too, but she uses the Wii even when there are no kids around. Darla enjoys “Wii Fit,” a game that teaches yoga moves, improves balancing, strength and has aerobics exercises.

The Sorensens are part of a growing trend. Sports enthusiasts who are older and sedentary because of injuries or worn-out joints are now enjoying playing games again.

The Wii gives them the opportunity to play sports without the jarring impact the real sport would cause. Baseball no longer has the jarring on the arms that comes with hitting the ball. Bowling is no longer so hard on the knees and hands and tennis no longer requires so much running on a court.

Some senior centers have Wiis and are having tournaments. The Columbus Senior Center even had a competition where the seniors team beat the teenagers team in bowling. In October in Houston, there was a major Wii competition for seniors held with participants from all over the nation. The categories included sports games, intellectual games and the “Wii Fit.”

Darla enjoys her “Wii Fit” for the aerobics. She begins her stepping exercise and then turns on her favorite show. “I exercise while I watch my soaps,” Darla said. “It’s better than any other exercise tape I have; I actually have to watch those.”

Every day she does her stepping exercise. Sometimes when she’s feeling up to it, she tries the balance games, skiing is her favorite, and once in a while she does a yoga pose.

“It records what and when I do these things,” Darla said. “That way, when ‘grandpa’ teases me about sitting around and watching my soaps all day, I can show him that at least I wasn’t sitting.”

Bringing the family closer to them was one thing they had hoped for. Having it bring them closer to each other was something they never expected.

“Now we can spend more time together,” Farrell said. “She’s not one for sports so we’d spend time in different rooms watching TV. Now we’re playing games together.”

Darla added: “We now have a common interest that makes us laugh and play together. After 60 years of marriage, a little excitement is nice.”