Toys and Games

These seniors are kicking ass in Pokemon Go

And staying healthy while doing so.

Niantic

Pokemon Go isn't just for millennials or kids too young to know how to pronounce "Tyranitar," it turns out.

While it's been a long time since I've seen a huge mob chase down a rare Pokemon in Singapore, loyal groups of retirees are still playing the game, to my surprise. Then again, I shouldn't be. Niantic did say 65 million people still play the game each month.

These over-60 seniors are playing every day, and it sounds like they're getting a great workout doing so.

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Amy Ke has hit max level and has collected them all (except for the region-locked Pokemon).

Aloysius Low/CNET

For 65-year old colon-cancer survivor Amy Ke, Pokemon Go has been something she's played every day since last August. While the majority of players have yet to even hit the max level of 40, Ke has already done so, and even collected almost all of the gold badges. She says she needs 18 more Unowns to basically complete her game.

"Sometimes they spawn in the sea, or in the container shipyards at the port, so I can't actually catch them," she complains. 

She usually finds the rare Pokemon through a Singapore-based third-party tracker, and carefully renames each of her Pokemon with their IV percentages (a rating of how powerful it is). She has a 100-percent upgraded Snorlax, the most powerful version of one of the most powerful Pokemon in the game.

Ke wakes up early in the morning at 5am to hop onto a bus that takes her around the neighborhood to collect Poke Balls from nearby Pokestops. She says the bus ride's a lot cheaper than buying Poke Balls, and she would know -- she's spent over US $500 on the game.

But just because she takes a bus in the morning doesn't mean she's not getting any exercise. On the contrary, Ke maintains a fast pace, and is happy to tell you how she outran much younger folk while catching a Lapras back in the early days of the game.

These days, she's hunting rare Raid Bosses in gyms, and is hoping for tier-five bosses to appear soon (she knows they aren't in the game yet). She rattles off a list of all the names of the legendary Pokemon she's hoping to catch.

Since the only unique Pokemon Ke still needs are ones only found overseas, Ke is planning a trip to Hong Kong with her family. She intends to make sure she catches Farfetch'd while she's there.

  • Favorite Pokemon: Snorlax
  • Level: 40
  • Team: Mystic
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Anthony Seow (far right) with his Pokemon-hunting buddies.

Aloysius Low/CNET

While retiree Anthony Seow isn't as highly leveled or as dedicated as Ke when it comes to Pokemon Go, the game still beats "seating around the house doing nothing."

The 61-year old, who plays about two hours a day, hangs out with his friends at Singapore's iconic Marina Bay Sands, a place that used to be filled with Pokemon hunters. These days, Seow tells me most of the group are now chasing after tier-four gym battles, though it's not a priority for him.

Seow, like Ke, has already collected 'em all, barring region-locked ones, but he did manage to catch a Farfetch'd while holidaying in Taiwan. While he's yet to hit max level, he's already at level 37 since starting last September.

"I like Marina Bay Sands because it's a safe place to play. There's air-conditioning if you have to walk to the other end, and you don't have to worry about getting knocked down by a car if you're not paying attention," says Seow.

Seow also adds that the game is good exercise. He knows of a regular who used to come with his daughter (who's since stopped playing) who had heart issues and could barely walk without pain. After a year of Pokemon Go, though, that regular now has a clean bill of health, he says.

  • Most powerful Pokemon: Tyranitar
  • Level: 37
  • Team: Mystic
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Steve Ashie

It's not just Asian seniors who have taken to using Pokemon Go for exercise. I also spoke to 65-year old Steve Ashie, who lives in Overland Park, Kansas and had started playing again last December. He originally stopped playing when he chose the wrong team, but picked up the game again when his wife suggested that it'd be great for exercise.

"I picked a different team than the rest of the family... I chose Valor, they were Mystic. Of course, going out together to take gyms didn't work out due to that, and so I gave it up after 2 or 3 weeks," says Ashie, a semi-retired Oracle database admin.

Currently at level 33, he plays about 2 hours each day, and once walked 8 miles while playing the game. Ashie loves the new update, saying it gives his family a chance to meet people that they'd been fighting previously over gyms. 

That said, there's one thing he's not a fan of.

"The new gym setup is weak and really does not give much incentive to defend gyms anymore. You just want to stay in them for eight hours and twenty minutes to get your daily coin limit," says Ashie. 

"I'm hoping Niantic 'fixes' this part of the update.  But overall I like it."

Ashie says playing Pokemon Go has kept him fit, and that he's lost weight as well. His routine consists of walking around the local park for 30 to 40 minutes, where there are several Pokestops and three gyms. While he hasn't quite caught 'em all, he's basically just one short -- needing just eight candies to evolve a Cubone to a Marowak to finish his collection (apart from the tricky region-locked ones, of course).

  • Favorite Pokemon: Snorlax
  • Level: 33
  • Team: Mystic