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This article was published 17/1/2010 (3971 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
2When the ball stops, a woman -- today's bocce instructor -- pulls out her measuring tape. The mostly over-80 crowd is silent until she yells, "It's a good ball." Loud cheers fill the room.
It's a busier-than-usual day at Seine River Retirement Residence in St. Vital. More than 50 of its dwellers are practising for the upcoming 2010 Seniors Games. This first Olympics, of sorts, will take place Jan. 25-29 at 13 retirement homes across the country. All Seniors Care, a Toronto-based company, owns all of them. Five of the residences are in Manitoba.
The games are open to all Winnipeggers ages 75 to 110, although people of any age are encouraged to watch and volunteer. Tye can't wait to compete in the games, which will include events such Wii bowling, hall walking, bridge and Jeopardy. "I'll be walking for one thing. And playing bridge and bocce. Who knows?" says Tye, who retired from Great-West Life's marketing department 26 years ago.
The senior has been fine-tuning his walking skills so he's ready for the games next week. He challenges himself daily to five laps around the fourth floor of Seine River, his home since the fall. He's motivated by the landmarks he passes in the halls-- beautiful paintings of outdoor scenes, boats and cars.
Another motivation: his wife, a stroke patient in Riverview Health Centre. "I want to stay healthy -- as long as my wife is still alive," he says.
Today Joan Evans, 84, practises bocce for the second time this week. The retired Sears employee--originally from Birmingham, England -- says her daughter is thrilled she's getting ready for the upcoming games.
"She thinks it's great. She says the more things you get involved with, at least you're not sitting in the apartment," says Evans. "Just do the best you can and have fun."
Evans admits she never thought she would develop an interest in video games. But practising Wii bowling -- one of Nintendo's trendy fitness-oriented offerings -- has her hooked.
"That's fun, too. It's amazing, really, because when you lose the ball, the control vibrates sort of. It's really interesting, I think," says Evans, who plans to eventually play Wii with her great grandsons, who have the system at home.
Kathryn Lawson, 80, says practising bocce is bringing out a feisty side she never knew she had.
"I didn't think I was (competitive)," she says with a laugh.
The Seniors Games are the brainchild of Ronna Goldberg, the events planner for All Seniors Care. The Chicago-born woman owned landmark River Heights business Mindscape, for 25 years before taking on her current job. Goldberg recently came up with the idea for the Seniors Games and convinced executives in Toronto to hold it at seniors' facilities across the country.
What sparked the idea was the so-called Boston Marathon she organized at Shaftsbury Park Retirement Residence last year. That event got seniors up and moving -- racing around the facility's halls.
"People who couldn't even walk from their apartment to the dining room were walking our floors with such positive energy. It was just amazing," says Goldberg. She says seniors responded to the event's authentic feel due to the Manitoba Marathon volunteers on hand, a letter of congratulations from the mayor of Boston and a Winnipeg Police Services constable who directed "traffic."
Goldberg says the upcoming games come at a time of year when older people tend to feel isolated.
"It's really, really important that people understand that just because they get old doesn't mean they can't do this," she says.
Anna Dell'Acqua, Seine River's volunteer services director, who has been teaching seniors how to play a modified version of bocce, says she's thrilled with the residents' enthusiasm.
Just five or so showed up for bocce practice last week. Today, there are so many eager to learn, she has to divide the group into three.
"They are going to be incredibly busy for the next couple of weeks honing their skills," she says.
Manitobans of all ages are encouraged to watch the upcoming games, being held Jan. 25-29. To find out how to register, call Seine River (256-8877), Shaftesbury Park (885-7272), Sturgeon Creek I (885-1415), Sturgeon Creek II (885-0303) or Brandon's Victoria Landing (571-6000).
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