The Lifecare Community Friendship Games
The relay race is at full speed. So is the interval foot race. The participants and onlookers are enjoying the competition, as well as the opportunity to challenge their peers. Sounds like a typical college track meet, right? If you take a closer look at the competitors, however, you will see senior citizens-not college seniors. They are all Continuing Care Retirement Community residents, sharing in the Friendship Games, shattering stereotypes, and having fun in the process.
The Lifecare Community Friendship Games was established in 2003 by Wil Meredith, Director of Fitness and Restorative Exercise at The Quadrangle Retirement Community in Haverford, PA, and his associates of the Senior Exercise Professionals of Pennsylvania association. The inaugural competition was held at The Quadrangle with the help of co-Chair, Mike Wagner, and included 100 Residents from 11 neighboring CCRC communities.
When Mike, who is the Director of Fitness at Beaumont Retirement Community hosted the 2004 Games, 15 different communities were represented by 140 residents. This one-day event included Billiards, Swimming, Egg-on-Spoon Racing, Brain Games, Horseshoes, and a Foot Race/Obstacle Course.
According to Wil, the games were inspired by his residents. He explains, “This started with a personal vision. I had to find a way to celebrate the competitive spirit of my residents. Since feelings of achievement are ageless, as the residents compete they gain confidence in their ability to perform at any age.” This sense of accomplishment heightens their self-image by reflecting an awareness that they are still able to challenge themselves. But competition is not the primary focus of the Friendship Games. “By comparing themselves with their peers,” says Wil, “these ‘Super Seniors,’ as I call them, realize that they are not only entitled to feel their age-they can also embrace it.”
Much like the competitive spirit, the desire for companionship and friendship is also timeless. In just a few short years, the Games have resulted in countless new friendships and even helped to rekindle a few old ones. Wil remembers two of the participants who were reunited because of the Games. “They were old school mates, and hadn’t seen each other in years when they met again at the Games.”
Fond reunions like this promote one of the primary goals of the Games: to allow residents from the neighboring CCR Communities to meet and form lasting relationships. Creating an exciting, social outlet like the Friendship Games helps evaporate the isolation residents sometimes feel. “Because of the games, these residents have added a new dimension to their lifestyle. They are now in touch with other communities and will continue to challenge each other in compatible ways, at chess, at billiard games, all the while sharing their camaraderie at luncheons they will arrange at those gatherings,” Wil explains.
As a bonus to the Fitness Directors within the individual communities, the Games have increased awareness about the importance of physical and mental fitness. The fitness programs in those communities have become an even greater focal point for residents, who realize that exercise and mental stimulation are integral to a healthy lifestyle.
But the Friendship Games are much more than just a means to stay active and agile. They encourage distant residents to form close relationships, to share both the ups and downs of life after retirement, and to prove to one another that you are never too old to play.
If you would like more information about The Lifecare Community Friendship Games, please contact Wil Meredith at 610-658-7694 or email him at [email protected]