Every 4 (or 5) years a special summer event comes around that makes us all want to feel like an athlete. This year, residents in CCRCs from Minnesota to Florida showed that they have what it takes to compete in the NIFS Summer Games. NIFS fitness staff put together 8-10 different events that residents could compete in over the course of the Games. On the surface, this program looked like a way to celebrate the summer, but there was certainly more intention behind the design.
The most obvious goal of the Summer Games program is movement. Each sport was chosen as a way for residents to motivate themselves to get some physical exercise into the day. But, while they were enjoying themselves, they were also performing functional movements in each activity. Some were obvious. For example, “gymnastics” was actually a series of balance exercises using cones, foam pads, and other tools. Walking and swimming events were also an obvious way to get more people to exercise to earn their medals. But what about sports like basketball, soccer, and table tennis? On the surface, it’s “just” tossing a ball at a hoop or kicking one into a basket, but have each of these incorporates other important skills as well. Think about it: to throw a basketball into a hoop you not only have to practice hand-eye coordination, cognitively calculate depth and force, but most people also perform a mini-squat to lob the ball up toward the hoop. For soccer, many of the same skills apply plus you have to balance on one foot to be able to line up and kick the ball.
I think we can all recognize that the last 18 months have taken a toll on most people’s social and emotional wellness. One major barrier for some residents to come back to the fitness center and to group fitness classes is that they feel like they’ve lost their fitness. They are worried they won’t be able to keep up and so they are missing out on the physical benefits of regular exercise. One way to combat that feeling is to get people out of their homes and back into the social situations they love. Once they start to remember what they’ve been missing in the fitness center and with their friends and neighbors, it’s more motivating to come back to their regular activities.
And, of course, FUN!
At the end of the day there’s always going to be some element of trying to improve quality of life and infusing some fun into the community. For the NIFS Summer Games, much of the enjoyment for participants came from the competition aspect. Over 400 medals were handed out to participants across the program! Whether they were competing with other residents to see who could earn the most medals or challenging their own past performances, this one definitely brought out the athlete in everyone!