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Benefits of sport and activity for older people are outlined

17 August 2012 - 12:24pm

A ‘Geri Olympics’ event which has been running in the US for 25 years is hoping to spread to the UK.


Speaking in Glasgow, Dr Ted Muilenburg said he wants to hear from UK physios interested in importing the concept

Thousands of people living in nursing homes across West Virginia have taken part in the programme, which was initially set up to give hands-on experience to students at the West Virginia State University School of Health and Human Performance.
This April residents from around 180 nursing homes competed in adapted sports ranging from horse shoe pitching and marksmanship to clothes pin stacking and relay races.
The benefits of the programme were outlined this week at the World Congress on Active Ageing in Glasgow by founder Dr Ted Muilenburg. Research which involved questioning health professionals, volunteer staff and the nursing home residents themselves shows that taking part in the games promotes wellness, active living and quality of life.

Physio involvement

’It also helps with non-medical issues such as loneliness and boredom, and helps residents stay socially connected,’ he said. Physiotherapists have been closely involved, he added, and had helped to develop some of the events.
Dr Muilenberg said he hoped that the concept would take off in the UK and said the participants - who have included people aged up to 108 - loved being part of an ’Olympic’ event. ’We pass the torch to the sound of the Olympic tune, and everybody gets a medal and a certificate. It really means something to them, and sends out a message that people in nursing homes can be physically active - these guys train for months before taking part.’

Scotland's 'Golden Games'

Sandy Reid, programme manager for active ageing with City of Aberdeen Council and NHS Grampian, has already introduced a similar concept for older people living in care homes and in their own homes. This year involved 250 people taking part in events including a pentathlon for which teams from different care homes could compete. Sports include walking while balancing a beanbag and hitting or kicking a ball into the back of the net.
The event, called the Golden Games, was funded in the first year by a collection taken before a football match, and this year was successful in accessing money from the Scottish Government’s Change Fund, which promotes reshaping of services for older people.
Again, all participants receive a medal. ‘It’s the little things which make the big difference,’ said Mr Reid. ‘The medals cost £1.20 each and the competitors were absolutely delighted.’
Dr Muilenberg would like to hear from physios in the UK interested in importing the concept. His email address is
See links below for more reports from the World Congress on Active Ageing conference.


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