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Senior Kentuckians bowl up a Wii storm

HOPKINSVILLE — Shirley Woodward bowls ”granny-style,“ sitting in a chair and swinging both arms over her head after she's released the ball.

A resident of Morningside of Hopkinsville, Woodward uses a walker to get around and has grandchildren, but after that, there's nothing granny about this high-tech kegler. Woodward has rolled five strikes in a row as a member of the ”Oldies But Goodies“ Nintendo Wii bowling team at the assisted living facility in Western Kentucky.

”No open frames so far, Miss Shirley, you're doing good,“ said Mitzy Campbell, Morningside executive director, as the seven-member team gathered around the huge flat-screen TV in the commons area.

”I'm gonna try to stay that way for a while,“ Woodward replied.

She swung the controller with her distinctive technique and a pink-clad avatar with bobbing orbs for hands released a red ball down the lane, knocking over all the remaining pins.

”That's the way,“ Campbell said as the others cheered.

After the video game showed Woodward's fallen pins from a few different angles, a 3-D character with blue clothes and furrowed brows appeared on the TV screen.

”All right, Mr. Bob, that's you,“ one of the onlookers directed.

Bob Thomas got up from his chair. He looked down at his controller, struggling to maneuver a red dotted line on the screen to aim his ball.

Thomas bowls with the classic form, stepping forward and swinging one arm. The blue bowling ball on the screen seemed to float from the avatar's hand and inch toward its virtual targets.

The audience burst into cheers as the word ”Strike!“ flashed on the screen in front of the toppled pins. Woodward totals 160; Thomas scores 109.

On last count, the Oldies But Goodies were one point ahead of their nemesis, the Morningside of Paducah team. The two teams record their scores from games played each week and e-mail each other the results.

”Mitzy was a smart woman when she decided to buy this for us,“ Woodward said.

The director got the idea after seeing a segment on television describing how Wii was being used in senior facilities, but she didn't realize what a hit it would be with the residents, many of whom had never bowled or played video games before.

”I wondered about it because though it's pretty simple to use, you have to know how to use the remote,“ Campbell explained. ”But they all seemed to pick it up. And I didn't realize they were going to be so competitive.“

The residents also have tennis, golf, baseball and boxing games, but bowling is the most popular.

”It's good exercise too,“ Nancy Adwell, who is legally blind, said. ”Because it makes you concentrate.“

The Wii has been a source of entertainment for residents' guests as well, especially grandchildren.

”My children and grandchildren came and played with me,“ Woodward said. ”I told my daughter she has to get this kind so when I come to stay with her, I can play.“