Welcome to the Care Home Olympics at Kirkley Manor
The tension in the lounge at Kirkley Manor nursing home in Lowestoft was almost palpable.
Eyes were fixed on each resident in turn as they tossed balls towards a target mat on the floor and there were enthusiastic words of encouragement each time one of them finished in the centre ring.
The reason for all the excitement was that this game of boccia – a type of bowls played in the Paralympics – heralded the start of Kirkley Manor’s participation in the Care Home Olympics.
The competition, funded by Suffolk County Council and organised by Elatus Sports, a social enterprise set up after the 2012 London Olympics to promote inclusivity in sport, has attracted entries from 30 care homes across the county.
Elatus Sports manager and score keeper Sam Oakley said: “Each care home team will compete over six weeks; after two sessions of boccia they will move on to mat fishing and curling.
“The homes have been split into three groups and the two top scoring homes in each one will go on to compete in a finals week with trophies to win.”
He said despite the frailty of some of the people taking part, their competitive spirit remained undiminished.
“Some of the residents were apprehensive to begin with, but once they came out of their shell they really enjoyed it,” he said.
“Some were afraid they would not be able to do it but they just got on and did it – and were cheered on by their fellow residents.”
He said Elatus Sports had launched the Care Home Olympics in 2016 with just eight teams, but interest had quickly soared.
“This year we secured an extension of funding to meet the huge demand,” he said.
Carole Cook, activities coordinator at the Kingsley Healthcare run home in Kirkley Park Road, said: “The residents are so keen they were in position in the lounge before Sam even got here. They gee each other up and it’s the big topic of conversation.
“One of our residents, Valerie Young, is very competitive; another one, Richard Smith, is very frail but he can still take part. That’s the beauty of the competition.”