Gateway Apartments residents get their Wii on

Every Thursday, 12 women at Gateway Apartments in Skaneateles pull on special T-shirts and prepare for another grueling afternoon of sports.

Gong head-to-head at the virtual bowling alley, The Pickups and The Split Ends, compete for the highest score on resident Gayle Kelley's Nintendo Wii gaming system. Kelley, who is the group's computer whiz, is also the one who made the iron-on patches for each T-shirt with the team's logos.

While Kelley made the Wii available to residents a few years ago, it wasn't until January 2009 that anyone showed interest in using the system, Kelley said.

None of the women had played the Wii before, so once some of them took an interest in the games, Kelley taught them how to use the controllers and play the games.

"They really love it," she said. "What gets me is nobody knew how to move the arrows [on the controllers]. I love to help. It gives me a reason to be alive."

Now that teams have been established, the year has been separated into 13-week quarters. At the end of the first quarter, they even held a banquet for the players and all received awards for their "Wii-chievements."

As a low-impact activity, the weekly competition has helped keep everyone on the two teams active -- including 96-year-old Ruth Buff, whose average score is 143.

"This is fun. I never bowled before in my life before this," Buff said as she watched one team member bowl a strike.

Despite Buff's trouble walking and dependence on a walker, she said the weekly games are exercise and she hopes it's helping to keep her active.

The same is true for Rosanne Relfe, who has been playing since the Thursday league was formed.

"It gets everybody out of their apartments, so there's friendships," she said.

There is also camaraderie between teammates and challenges amongst the two teams.

Before becoming a regular team member, Buff was a sub for both teams. If one teammate were absent, she'd take over. But so many haven't been able to play on Thursdays, she's now permanently on a team.

While the game helps Gateway's residents stay active, it's also helped them hone some hand-eye coordination skills. In the 10th frame of June Brown's game, she bowled three strikes in a row, causing ecstatic cries of joy from her team.

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