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Biggest ever Geri Olympics will return to region this week

By Charlotte Ferrell Smith, Religion reporter
COURTESY PHOTO The Geri Olympics games will return to the South Charleston Community Center Friday for what is expected to be the most well-attended installment of the event. Many participants have been practicing their adapted sports for months.
COURTESY PHOTO Clothespin stacking is one of the events at the Geri Olympics, an event tailored to residents of nursing homes or assisted living facilities. Children also attend the games, making the event intergenerational.

The 27th annual West Virginia Geri Olympics will be the biggest ever with more than 220 competitors from throughout the state.

The event will be held Friday at South Charleston Community Center with registration beginning at 8 a.m. and events continuing throughout the morning. There will be a wide variety of activities such as bowling, horseshoes, basketball, a maze for improving pulmonary function, clothespin stacking, corn hole, golf putting, an obstacle course, wheelchair racing and marksmanship.

“This dispels the myth that people go to nursing homes to die,” said Tim Muilenburg, founder and director of Geri Olympics. “It has been an amazing journey to work with these folks.”

Muilenburg will retire May 30 from his position at West Virginia University, where he is an associate professor of health and human performance. Retirement will allow him to funnel more time and energy into Geri Olympics as he watches the organization continue to grow and enrich lives.

Muilenburg, who has served as a consultant for hospitals and nursing homes for 35 years, said Geri Olympics was first launched as a way of improving the lives of those who reside in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

Assisting with activities on Friday will be 200 volunteers from Marshall University’s School of Medicine and School of Pharmacy, West Virginia University, West Virginia State University and a variety of community agencies.

West Virginia Geri Olympics promotes wellness, active living and quality of life through adapted competitive sports.

Most participants have been practicing for months in their respective sports.

Muilenburg enjoys seeing children and youth at the event so that the intergenerational component is added to the day.

In addition to encouraging physical activity, preparing and participating in events adds to overall well-being, he said.

Muilenburg points out that West Virginia Geri Olympics has received global recognition and is being used as a model for similar events in other states and around the world with partners in Czech Republic, Scotland and Canada. The program was featured in an invited symposium at the World Conference on Active Living in Glasgow, Scotland, in August 2012. Additional presentations have been made in Prague, Valencia and Spain.

Dawn Skelton and Bob Laventure, of Glasgow, Scotland, will attend West Virginia Geri Olympics for the second year in a row. Also, they will present a program entitled “Fall Prevention and Active Living” at Marshall University on Wednesday that will be attended by doctors, nurses and other health professionals.

Many Geri Olympics events have been designed in cooperation with care home residents and the professionals who serve them, including physical, occupational and recreational therapists.

Two new sponsors for this year’s West Virginia Geri Olympics are the Marshall University School of Pharmacy and Marshall University School of Medicine. Other sponsors include Bureau of Senior Services, Charleston and Central West Virginia Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau, the city of South Charleston, Step by Step and Mylan Pharmaceutical.

Muilenburg said he is grateful for dedicated sponsors and volunteers.

He plans to devote his efforts to nurturing the new Institute for Geri Olympics and Active Living with a board of directors and opportunities for finding additional funding and new projects.

For more information about West Virginia Geri Olympics, contact Muilenburg at htm406@aol.com or 304-610-9649.

Contact writer Charlotte Ferrell Smith at charlotte@dailymailwv.com or 304-348-1246.


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