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CULTURE Older players love Pokemon Go, too Hit mobile game isn’t just for millennials
ByTaylor Dungjen | BLADE STAFF WRITERPublished on Aug. 14, 2016 | Updated 12:48 p. m.
FEA-POKEMONGO14-Tracy-MurrayTracy Murray, 51, plays PokemonGo the Toledo Zoo. Murray loves it because it helps the stage-four cancer patient be more active.THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT

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A flick of her finger across the screen of her phone, and Tracy Murray caught herself another Pidgey.

The tiny bird Pokemon, one of 151 characters in Pokemon Go, was already in Mrs. Murray’s arsenal, but, hey, the more the merrier, right?

Mrs. Murray, of Toledo, is 51 and among a strong contingent of “older” men and women who play the game on their cell phones.

StartApp, a company that tracks app downloads and usage of 600 million users, reported that 4.6 percent of Pokemon Go players are 35 to 44 years old; 2.7 percent are 45 to 54 years old; and 0.7 percent are 55 or older.

The bulk of players tracked by the company, 58.8 percent, are 18 to 24.

Researchers at the University of Toledo are working to understand why the game — which appeals most broadly to younger players — also draws in older crowds.

Joseph Dake, chair of the department of health and recreation, along with four doctoral students, surveyed adults — anyone 18 and older — about their playing behavior.

While the data are still being crunched, Mr. Dake said he heard from players that the game is used for increased exercise and helped one person overcome some anxiety.

“This person went into giving me a whole history of their anxiety, problems with mental illness, and they’re on medications. Since the game has been out, they’ve been spending more time outside and socializing and don’t feel they need their meds,” Mr. Dake said. “It’s one person volunteering their own story, but it’s still interesting.”

Just how popular is Pokemon Go? The website Vox Culture reports that more people downloaded the Go app during its first week than have downloaded the app for the dating hookup site Tinder in four years and that its current growth trajectory will soon have it surpassing Twitter.

■ 13 hours: Time it took Pokemon Go, released on July 16, to become the top-grossing app in the U.S.

■ 21 million: Number of U.S. users Pokemon Go is averaging each day, with 4-5 million downloads a day.

■ $1.6 million: Pokemon Go revenue generated per day by iPhone users alone.

■ 67: Number of countries the game is currently available in, and counting.

■ 45 minutes: Amount of time the average user spends a day playing the game.

■ Top dog: It is the most successful smartphone app in history, besting Candy Crush Saga, Draw Something, and Angry Birds.

■ 197,000: Number of Pokemon-themed Spotify playlists.

■ 645 million: Number of interactions/comments on a Facebook post about Pokemon Go as of July 19.

■ 84 percent: Percentage of Americans age 18-65 who have heard of Pokemon Go.

SOURCE: Touchstone Research, DMR Stats, chrisbrogan.com

Debbie “Tink” Martin, 59, of Toledo, has been playing Pokemon Go since July 8. The level-21 player said she enjoys the game because of its fundamental simplicity. It doesn’t hurt either that it’s helping her maintain her cool-aunt status.

“I have some very young nieces and nephews, and frankly it probably makes me feel cooler — not that I care so much about that anymore,” she said. “I’m the cool aunt, and I intend to keep that spot.”

Ms. Martin also has health issues. She’s been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which limits her physical activity.

After a day of work, when she’s got the energy left, she grabs her phone, hops in the car, and heads for downtown. She can park, find a bench to sit on (although, she says, Toledo could use more benches), or stay in the air-conditioned car if it’s too hot and capture nearby Pokemon.

They’re around the courthouse, the library. She’s having brief interactions with people she otherwise would never have seen or spoken to. She, too, is discovering parts of the city she’s never visited before.

“I discovered Glass City Cafe,” she said of the UpTown restaurant at 1107 Jackson St. “I didn’t know they’d been there for 10 years.”

Traversing the Toledo area looking for Pokemon or engaging in gym battles is fun, she said.

“And, no, I’ve never considered climbing the zoo fence,” she said, alluding to a couple who were arrested in July for doing just that.

Mrs. Murray hasn’t considered it, either, though when news of the arrests broke, curious friends sent half-joking messages wondering if she was one of the culprits.

She was not, but she does visit the zoo frequently to walk and look for Pokemon.

Mrs. Murray, a stage-four cancer patient, says the game is good for her as it gives her a reason to walk and wander.

“I don’t have good days and bad days,” she said, “I have good hours and bad hours. … I can pick it up, I can put it down.”

She was at the zoo when she caught that Pidgey and, after, went to walk with her husband, Corey, who, for the record, is not a Poke-player.

Mrs. Murray downloaded the game because her daughter, Katy Masters, 28, of Toledo, had the game and mentioned it. While Mrs. Murray was familiar with the cards and cartoon from when her daughter was younger, she said she is not a cartoon kind of person but has always loved technology, which is what, in part, drew her to the game.

She’s out more now; if she weren’t playing she’d likely be at home catching up on season seven of Game of Thrones.

“I’m more active because of it,” she said. “I was spending a lot of time on the deck and enjoying the cat and dog.”

Contact Taylor Dungjen at: tdungjen@theblade.com,

or 419-724-6054, or on Twitter @taylordungjen.



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