|The Daily Courier/Matt Hinshaw|
Shallum Pendergast, 10, helps out her dad Alvis Burns with the Nintendo Wii controller as he plays a hunting game while daughter Rebecca Burns, 7, watches at the Bob Stump VA Medical Center Wednesday morning in Prescott. The Nintendo Wii entertainment system is useful in recreational therapy.
Every day in the dining room of the Bob Stump VA Medical Center's Extended Care and Rehabilitation Center, veterans play golf, tennis, or enjoy a game of bowling.
The sports are simulations of their real-life counterparts that the veterans play on the Nintendo Wii, but the exercise, and the enjoyment, is real.
"I was skeptical at first," said Bill Powell, an ECRC patient. "But, I was always a sports fan. I used to play all these sports, and this is a lot like the real thing."
Powell enjoys playing Wii Sports, the collection of sports mini-games that comes bundled with the Wii console, despite his physical limitations. Though he uses a wheelchair for mobility and has full use of only one arm, Powell is able to play many of the Wii games that require only the use one hand.
"The Wii is a great tool for our patients, it is great therapy," said Ann Marie Love,
recreation therapist. "With many games you don't need much of a range of motion to enjoy them and benefit from them. It's great because it gets people moving, actually doing something."
Leo Noble, an ECRC patient, agreed, saying he had never enjoyed video games that are just "pushing buttons," but that the immersive nature of Wii gameplay has him hooked.
"I think it's good for hand-eye coordination, but good for the mind as well," Noble said. "It builds up confidence. It's been so long since I've tried anything new. A lot of people here are shy about trying it, that takes a lot of encouragement, but once they try it, they've enjoyed it, like I have."
Paula Moran, the VA hospital's Supervisor for Recreation Therapy, said the VA now has two Wii systems, one at the ECRC and one at the VA's Domiciliary. She said she was surprised at how quickly the patients took to the system, and impressed with its function in encouraging exercise and mobility.
"It's fun, and that makes the most difference," Moran said. "With most exercise, it's just exercise, but with Wii, it's sports, it's fun, it's exciting. We've had the old Nintendo (Entertainment System) years ago, but it was never this popular, and it wasn't really the kind of exercise the patients needed. This, though, this is great."
While the Wii games at the ECRC are usually more tame, at the domiciliary the "competition has been fierce," Moran said.
"Watch this strike," Willie Calloway, a retired Marine at the Domiciliary said, as he made a precise sweep of the arm with the Wii's motion-sensitive controller during a game of bowler. "I've done two 300 games, so far. This is great for me, mentally. When I'm stressed, I can come down here, and let it out with the Wii."
Calloway has been playing the Wii for 5 months, and said he has loved every minute of it. He said the Wii has made the Domiciliary a much more lively place, and that he plans to buy a Wii of his own, at some point.
"It keeps people entertained, and it can keep the kids busy," Calloway said. "It's even something you can do with kids. I know I'll have to get one. I'll always have something to do with my free time."
Donald Giovannetti, another retired marine staying at the Domiciliary, said he can play only a couple of games at a time because of his arthritis, but that it still provides a fun substitute for the sports that he can no longer participate in.
"In Wii bowling, I'm lucky to break 100 right now, but I couldn't lift a real bowling ball now, thanks to my arthritis," Giovannetti said. "I'll buy one. I'd rather play this any day than some 'click click' computer game. Here, you're really doing something."