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Designing interiors to accommodate for Wii bowling residents

October 7, 2009
by Lisa Cini
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First of all, no matter what anyone tells you, residents are not too old or incapacitated to participate in Nintendo’s Wii bowling.

Over the last year I had this particular interactive video game come up in most of my design meetings, with people gathered on opposing sides stating the reasons why residents can’t or can participate. Frankly, I was irritate by the amount of caregivers discouraging the activity and the design community seeing residents as “feeble” and not engaged, and therefore they are not able to participate well enough to enjoy the activity.

Anyone who spends most of their time designing for long-term care knows that design revolves around a couple of items that you take from the basic requirements that everyone has to meet. Those items are dining and activities. If you want to get technical, dining is the #1 activity, so in fact all design revolves around what activities the resident’s will do, where and with whom.

Proper design for an activity like Wii bowling takes special consideration for a couple of reasons.

· Seniors are not able to get up and out of their chairs as fast as a 20-year-old (if at all) so the space needs to be clear of all obstructions, not too tight, and preferably in an open space.

· Wii Bowling is also a spectator sport and ample space needs to be provided for others to watch but not get in the way.

· Space also needs to be left for wheelchairs, those standing, and regular seats for teams. Oh, did I mention teams? Quite a few homes have leagues with teams of two bowlers on each team. This requires quite a bit of space and the participants get very serious about the game.

· If possible, have a change in flooring to clearly mark where residents are allowed to stand during bowling. This is to keep the play fair and friendly but you should also take care to not create a tripping hazard.

· The TV or screen needs to be at eye-height for a standing individual.

· Acoustics are helpful. If the space can be designed so that high absorption materials are used, players will find it easier to communicate, thus increasing the fun!

We learned all of this when we hosted our first Wii Sports tournament for seniors; the oldest participant was 96 and more than 34 teams showed up. If you think stamina was an issue you’re dead wrong! The tournament lasted from 10:00am till 4:00pm and in the end I was more tired than the residents.

Lisa Cini

President and CEO

Cini is president and CEO of Mosaic...



Thank you so much for the comments. I had not even thought about playing Wii with others outside of the home. While I am not saying it should be mandatory to have a specifically designed space for the activity, it certainly makes it easier and more fun. We have also found that school kids have extreme patience with the seniors when teaching them and it is a great inter-generation game that they both can play together. CNN also just spouted a study on the benefits. Regards, Lisa

Ms. Cini,
We have had the Wii for some time now and I would like to share my thoughts. While I think a specially designed area for residents to engage in the Wii would be nice, I definitely do not think it is mandatory. I think one of the benefits of the Wii is that there is little accomodation necessary to utilize the Wii as an amazing therapeutic tool. Of course, some thought and space is necessary so no one gets hit by swinging arms. I would like to add to your list one of the most important benefits the Wii has to offer, that is, the ability to interact and play with residents outside the nursing home. ANY, specially designed Wii area should include wifi or hard wiring to an internet connection. I would love to hear how many nursing homes out there have this already.

I have taught residents of all levels of functioning to play the Wii and have found it to be quite a challenge for even those residents I would consider more able. (I have even tried contacting Nintendo to discuss the design of the bowling program to accomodate the special needs of the elderly, I was told to send an email.) Therefore, I believe the success of the Wii program for the general nursing home population depends upon the patience of the staff teaching them. It is well worth the efforts, just today we hosted our first bowling awards luncheon for a league that lasted ten weeks. It was a huge success!

As far as the therapeutic benefits of the Wii system, please google this. There has been may articles written on the topic.