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On your mark, get set…Go for Gold with the Geri Olympics

When you think of geriatrics the first thing you think of is athletics, right?
​Well for Ted Muilenburg that’s exactly what he envisioned over 30 years ago.  

I had the incredible opportunity to pick the brain of  the Executive Director for the Institute of Geri Olympics and Active Living. This organization is one a kind, and showcases the need for physical activity, community collaboration, and large group/team programming in long term care. 
The Geri Olympics is an annual event every April, that Nursing Home residents across the globe can participate in; hosted in West Virginia. The organization also offers an array of other services, from consultations with geri olympic specialists, mind and balance training, and even in-house geri-olympic programming right to your doorstep! 
Check out the interview with Ted below and don’t forget to like them on Facebook, get your residents and facility involved and keep this organization thriving for years to come with your donations, support and intrigue. 

Ted, Can you tell my readers a little about yourself? What is your background? 
I have a PhD and am a CTRS.  At this point in life I am retired from West Virginia State University where I taught, coached and coordinated a therapeutic recreation program. I taught in Indiana and Kansas three previous years. Our recreation program at the university was accredited by NRPA for 30 years. In addition to teaching I had a consultation business which I continue to do working with nursing homes and rural hospitals.

So, why geriatrics? Recreation Therapists can work in array of fields; What brought about your  passion for elder fitness?
 I have always from a young age had a special place in my heart for seniors and people with disabilities.

How did you come up with the idea for the Geri Olympics?
The Geri Olympics grew out of a desire to get our students out of the classroom and into service learning where they would learn about real life situations and issues and have the ability to access charts and follow documentation. They worked and did service learning in nursing homes which often got them their first job. The first Geri Olympics started 31 years ago and focused on being active, socially engaged, being on a team, training and representing a facility while having fun using adapted games. This continues today. The events have always been led managed and planned by volunteers. Collaboration with other agencies and universities in the USA and in other countries Czech Republic, Scotland, Greece and Canada have made Geri Olympics a global model and project.

What is unique about the GeriOlympics?
It’s the only competition we know of for nursing home resident athletes that does what we do for as long as we have done it with the international and national impact.

Are there any costs associated with participating?
Registration fee is $100 nursing homes pay their own transportation and food.

What is your favorite part of the event?
The noise, residents being active and having fun – you should see the videos on YouTube they tell the story – people don’t have to go to nursing homes to die- we have nursing homes that have trophy cases full of awards from our events.

If you could tell Recreation and activity directors one reason they should get their organizations to participate, what would it be?
People don’t go to nursing homes to die, their lives can be full, vibrant and filled with physical and community based activities that have purpose. 

Do you offer any training on how to get seniors to participate in physical recreation?
Yes we have teams if Geri olympics specialists that can travel and come help set up the first event and bring equipment. Host needs to provide expenses! 

How can someone donate to the cause or reach out to a Geri Olympic Specialist?
Contact me
Dr. Ted Muilenburg
Htm406@aol.com

We have a GoFund me project going to raise money to go to Athens Greece for an event in May 2019. Previously we have taken nursing home residents to similar Geri o events in Prague, CR
(Cooperated with Charles University) 2008; Glasgow Scotland 2012 (cooperated Glasgow Caledonian University) and helped start a similar program in Athens Greece for seniors living in the community.

All of these and the Annual Geri Olympics are funded through donations, grants and fundraising!

And lastly Ted, what is your biggest vision/goal for the Geri Olympics and Active Living organization? Where do you see it heading in the next 5-10 years?
Well survival – I was a young man when this started now I am 75- I think we have a team in place that can keep the annual event going maybe a little more. They all have families, full time jobs and lives to lead. With 31 years in you would think we have answered the sustainability question but I don’t think so. Most of our volunteers love the seniors, the residents and the events – not the management and fund raising part. As volunteers that’s their privilege but with out the management part the event ends. We’ve had a good run made lots of people happy and helped improve quality of life while being active! I plan on reducing my role over next 2 to 3 years and turning the operations over to a team of 3 or 4 Geri Olympics specialists – they are very capable and interested we will see how it goes.

The international impact has been fun. I taught at Charles University for a semester, we signed a memo of understanding between them and my university that resulted in student, faculty and folks from the community exchanging and visiting in CR. Same for Glasgow and now a developing project in Athens! 

To check out more about the Geri Olympics and what services they can offer you and your facility follow them on Facebook: 
https://www.facebook.com/geriolympics/

Other articles highlighting The Geri Olympics & it’s impact on eldercare: 
https://www.wvgazettemail.com/metrokanawha/thirtieth-annual-geri-olympics-in-the-planning-stages-for-april/article_8a98fc5a-9b3e-5208-93a5-5703387e105f.html

http://wchstv.com/news/local/senior-citizens-compete-at-annual-geri-olympics-in-south-charleston

http://www.wvstateu.edu/announcement/2012/08/09/geri-olympics-founder-goes-glasgow.aspx

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