As Barbara Goodrich made the third lap around the hallways of Good Samaritan Nursing Home carrying a makeshift Olympic torch, a large group of seniors had gathered in the facility’s cafeteria to learn about this year’s winter games.
The seniors listened as Jim Gorman, the assistant director of recreational therapy, began the mini “opening ceremony” by telling them facts about the games being held in Sochi, Russia. Every few minutes, the cardboard and tissue paper torch would be handed off to another senior to make the rounds.
“Who knows how much it costs to put on this year’s Olympic games?” Gorman asked the group of about 50 seniors.
The guesses began in the millions and when they started reaching the billions, many showed signs of disgust. This year’s Olympic games are actually the most expensive in history, costing more than $51 billion.
“We didn’t put any money toward that, did we?” asked one woman, with Gorman explaining the United States did in a way, though the Olympic Committee.
When the presentation was over, Director of Recreational Therapy Sharon Rappaport told the seniors how, once again, the nursing home would be holding their own Olympic games through the end of the month. The games would be varied, with some participants being residents and others the staff. There would also be a trivia day for those who didn’t want to participate in athletic activities.
“We would like everyone involved, even if it’s just to come down and cheer on your team,” Rappaport said.
Each wing of the nursing home had been designated a different team and assigned a color of red, white or blue to wear during the games.
Activities for the residents included skee ball, ring toss and bowling, along with the trivia competition. The events become a little more intense for the staff. One event is a wheelchair race around cones, while the other event is the “Deacon Pull.” It involves Deacon Robert Fricke sitting in a locked wheelchair, while a member of the staff wears a harness attached to the chair and sees how far he or she can pull the deacon in the allotted time.
“He was willing to do it,” said Rappaport of the deacon. “We just asked him. I think it will be fun.”
Rappaport said the facility holds games for the residents simultaneously with each Olympics. The hope is they will watch the games on television and participate in the events at the nursing home to give them something to talk about. This was the first time Good Samaritan did an event along with the winter games, so new activities had to be thought up.
“They get to participate in something that is going on in the real world. It keeps them oriented to what goes on in the larger community and might jog memories of things they may have participated in throughout their lives,” said Rappaport.
Several of the residents had been to past Olympics, and two ladies had bowled, which might give their teams the advantage during the facility’s games.
Rappaport said quality of life is important at every age, and the games show the residents they can still have fun, be successful and gain the respect of their peers.
“It show them they are respected, appreciated and have a purpose,” Rappaport said.
The activity director said it’s also important for the staff to get involved.
“They love watching us make a fool of ourselves,” Rappaport said. “It lets the residents see us in a different light. That we’re not just the people who care for them, but it humanizes us and gives them a different way to relate.”
At the end of the month, the games will conclude with a closing ceremony to honor all of the medal winners. There will also be a hot chocolate social for residents, staff, family and friends.
“It’s all about balance and having different activities that everyone can participate in,” said Rappaport. “That’s the purpose of recreational therapy.”