Once upon a time there was a little girl turning nine years old, and she wanted to have a birthday party for her friends. We happened to have a ton of frozen blueberries, and thus the Blueberry Olympics were born. “Olympians” had nine tasks of varying difficulty involving blueberries…ranging from guessing how many blueberries were in your muffin and then eating it to check your accuracy, to balancing a frozen blueberry on your nose and running through a maze of cones, to tossing the blueberries into the ever widening circle of rings for points.
Fast forward a decade, and now it was my turn for a big birthday. My nine year old was now nineteen, and she decided we should have an “Old Person Olympics” to celebrate. She came up with the theme, and I came up with the individual “games” to utilize classic tools in the elderly and handicapped population.
We designed a timed obstacle course at an elementary school that had the following tasks:
1. Put on TWO pairs of 3.25 reading glasses and ski gloves, and try to put M&Ms into a “pill box” (earring organizer) in observation of the many medication organizers I have seen with several of my older clients.
2. Hop into a wheelchair and weave in between four cones
3. Run to a bocce ball and toss one towards the marker ball
4. Grab a pickle ball racquet and hit the wiffle ball five times against the wall
5. Put on a walking boot, grab some crutches, and move as quickly as possible to the…
6. Walker, where you grab two glasses of half full water on a cookie sheet (tray), balance them, and take off as quickly as possible around a pole on the playground.
7. Stop and grab a frisbee and toss it into the center of a hula hoop
8. Grab a toilet plunger and place it inbetween your knees, scoop up a roll of toilet paper with your plunger, and holding the toilet paper on the plunger head for the final target to drop the plunger and roll onto.
The unexpected outcomes of the games were the following:
1. We couldn’t believe how hard it was to operate most of the tools for mobility. The wheelchair in particular was the subject of two crashes into large cement posts. Funny for us, but if we needed to get around via wheelchair then it wouldn’t be funny at all!
2. We also couldn’t believe how tired we were. The course didn’t take anyone more than 5 minutes but we were fatigued!
3. The biggest takeaway was we discovered how very difficult it was for our young able-bodied healthy selves to maneuver and get around. It created a big resolve to keep our bodies in the best tip top shape as possible in order to avoid being a daily user of any of the mobility tools.
You could call it Accidental Sensitivity Training. I highly recommend it! We had lots of laughs along the way, but the sobering underlying realization was that if we aren’t careful (and barring circumstances beyond our control) this could be our daily life.