“I’m too old for this,” Letia Gay protested Wednesday as she held a remote control and faced a TV screen to play a Wii video game that mimics bowling. Having dropped in at the Andover Senior Center for a regular fitness class, she said she’d never even bowled for real in her life.
But students from nearby schools were there to volunteer for their spring break, and a grant from the Butler County Department on Aging had just procured the new Wii, so Andover senior citizens were getting a new way to work out Wednesday.
“It’s too much for me,” Gay said as she tried to hold a button down for just the right amount of time before letting go and following through with her virtual ball release. Nathan Whiting, a student at East High, stood at her left side and coached her on the finer points. Friends on the periphery added their 2 cents.
“Letia!” yelled Helen Martin from her vantage point on a nearby treadmill. “Like you’re going to thumb your nose at someone!”
A few delivery attempts later, and “I got two!” Gay said as a pair of pins dropped. A few frames later, and she had a strike. It was the inevitable progression of getting past frustration to learn a new way to interact with the TV and get the hands and eyes coordinated on a new skill.
Zach Brooks, a student at Andover Central Middle School, was there to coach his grandmother Marilyn Routon as she played against Gay.
“I didn’t really have anything better to do, so why not come out here and help someone?” Zach said of his involvement in United Way’s annual Youth Days of Caring. Nearly 300 area students are volunteering this spring break at 33 nonprofit organizations. They’ve repaired and repainted the Grand Hall walls at Exploration Place, sorted clothing for His Helping Hands, dried trays at the Lord’s Diner and staffed activity stations at the Museum of World Treasures, among other tasks.
Students from Maize, Goddard, Derby, Rose Hill and Wichita are making the trek to Andover this week to help out with the Wii training and spring cleaning at the senior center.
Samuel Whiting, an eighth-grader at Robinson Middle School and Nathan’s brother, said he’d fulfilled his service-hours requirement at the senior center Tuesday but was back Wednesday just to help out.
“I’m pretty excited” about the volunteers, said Davalyne Miller, director of the drop-in center that offers meals, exercise classes, card games, a library and computer access to Andover senior citizens. “This is the first time we’ve done anything like that, and it was a huge success.”
Zach said he had a Wii at home but is usually at track practice or something else that keeps him from playing the video game.
“This Wii gives you exercise, too,” he said. But “it kind of fries your brain a little, too.”
The senior citizens who tried it Wednesday probably would agree. Gay allowed that she did eventually get the hang of Wii bowling, but she didn’t stay around long enough to finish her game against Zach’s grandma.
“I’m not quick enough on the trigger,” she said.