Oakdale resident Joe Gaeta has always been active. The 84-year-old has been a sports fanatic since his youth and even tried out for the Yankees in 1946 with his childhood friend, Whitey Ford.
“Whitey Ford, he tried out as a first baseman. When they saw his velocity throwing from first to third, they signed him as a first baseman and I didn’t get anything,” said Gaeta, who remained a friend to Ford and a fan of the Yankees.
Although he did not make it to the big leagues, Gaeta retained his love for sports and now uses it to inspire others. For the past five years, he has worked as a senior center aid for the Town of Islip, finding ways to make exercise fun.
One of the places that he has helped is the Caesar Trunzo Senior Center in Brentwood. Two years ago, the Town of Islip provided funding for all senior centers to have a Nintendo Wii.
Since the game console arrived at the center, the seniors have played Wii Sports Bowling every day for fun and exercise. On Wednesdays, Gaeta visits the seniors to give pointers on how to use the controller and offers tips for getting a high score.
“With the Wii game, it’s more fun than exercise,” Gaeta said. “They don’t realize it’s a lot of exercise when they are swinging their arms and getting up.”
On Wednesdays, up to 50 seniors wait to play with the Wii, and some have purchased their own for their homes. The game creates healthy competition and socialization for the seniors.
“I play with the girls,” said Dorothy Powell, 87, who enjoys the game with friends Gwendolyn Potter, 81, and Carrie Berry, 89. “The Wii games, we were the first ones to start it off because we played together as a group.”
Seasonal tournaments have been created for local senior centers for Wii Sports, aerobics, ping-pong and other fitness activities. Senior centers in Oakdale, Ronkonkoma and Brentwood compete for plaques and trophies, and all activities are free.
“It makes me feel much more active than just sitting down and not doing anything,” said Berry.