BY JOE MARVILLI
Seniors in Flushing recently went up against another senior center in Manhattan in a bowling competition. This was not your usual game though. There were no pins, lanes or balls. Instead, the entire tournament took place online.
The Selfhelp Benjamin Rosenthal Prince Street Senior Center held New York City’s first online Xbox senior bowling contest on Oct. 24. Members from the Flushing senior center went head-to-head against their counterparts from Manhattan’s SAGE Center. The competition was the result of collaboration between the Dept. for the Aging, the Dept. of Information Technology & Telecommunications and Microsoft.
The seniors are using the Xbox 360’s Kinect device, which reads body movements for actions on the screen, rather than a controller. The City worked with Microsoft to create “Exergamers NYC,” a program that makes use of the Kinect in non-traditional ways. This is meant to allow all participants, including blind and low-vision seniors, to join in on the activities. Besides bowling, seniors have used the Kinect for other exercises like boxing, baseball and Zumba dancing.
Selfhelp introduced the first Virtual Senior Center in 2010, a space that offers brain fitness exercises for its residents. Technology has been part of the center’s mission statement for the past seven years, with an onsite instructor teaching seniors how to use a computer and the Internet.
“There’s a misconception that seniors don’t understand technology, that they’re afraid of technology. That’s just not true. You have to show them what technology can do for them,” Jon Minners, director of Public Affairs at the DFTA, said.
The bowling competition has been a source of invigoration for seniors, giving them a chance for exercise and social interaction.
“With technology, the world is open to them. You can see how happy they are about playing and winning,” Bernie Abramowitz, a Selfhelp resident and the virtual bowling team captain, said. “Two of the people sitting there were in a depressed stage. By playing with a team, they get satisfaction from doing well, plus the social friendship nature of it as well.”
The Queens team at Selfhelp was victorious in their first major competition, winning two out of three games against SAGE. Selfhelp won the first game 160 to 124 and won the second game 153 to 125. SAGE pulled ahead in the third game, 135 to 109.
According to Minners, this is just the launch event for the virtual competitions, with more to come in the near future.
The Selfhelp Benjamin Rosenthal Prince Street Senior Center is located at 45-25 Kissena Blvd.
Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @Joey788.