LGBT senior citizens give couples' bowling new dimensions with virtual Exergaming

Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) and Microsoft Xbox teamed up and the result is one of the coolest bowling leagues ever, and the fun’s just getting started.

The nation’s largest organization for the older gay, lesbian, bi, and trans population was specially selected to introduce Exergaming to its senior center in NYC’s Chelsea neighborhood. SAGE is known for its extended history of providing advocacy, cultural events, and health resources to its community. Lately, the group has been taking wellness to a new, creative level.

With Kinect for Xbox, which uses motion sensors on its players, Exergamers from a wide range of ages and abilities get all the good-spirited competition and healthy movement of exercise without undergoing any strain. The SAGE Center’s participants, many of whom are as young as their sixties and continue to work full time, particularly gravitated towards virtual bowling. 

Barbara Police and Pat Sloane have been together for almost 40 years and have found a new type of partnership as Exergamers. Pat describes the virtual scene to Barbara, who lost her sight more than a decade ago and receives guidance and cheers from other players while aiming the virtual ball. Each week, the women compete with other senior citizens from various centers in virtual tournaments, hosted in SAGE’s common room in Chelsea.

Exergaming is designed to increase the physical, social, and mental health of people who are older. Pat and Barbara, who were once named “Couple of the Year” by the mayor of New York, say that exergaming has expanded their social circle and added some much-deserved levity into their lives, much of which have been spent in dedication to advocacy and political movements.

While the two women may be among the cutest couples in the league, Rose Jordan–current champion–may be among the fiercest competitors. Rose, who does not like to reveal her age, loves Exergaming because it has all the competitive spirit from her many years in bowling alleys, but has an added bonus: "You don't have to lift a heavy ball! And you can still get the same results, if you know how to play it."

Bonnie Kearney, director of Trustworthy Computing Communications for Accessibility and Aging at Microsoft, is pleasantly unsurprised by Exergaming’s success in the community. She said, “At Microsoft, we believe that technology has the power to transform the lives of people of all ages and abilities...With each of our public-private partnerships, such as Exergamers NYC, we use technology in unexpected and non-traditional ways to help promote and facilitate, wellness, social interaction, and active lifestyles.”

And the fun is only going to keep growing.  Exergames NYC may be expanding to SAGE Centers in Harlem and Brooklyn, with hopes of eventually reaching a national audience. For a community whose members may have limited physicality or access to resources, virtual bowling has become the great equalizer–at least, until it’s time to count the pins.