MONETT, Mo. It was a festive atmosphere as all 14 nursing homes had different themes with the competitors dressed in corresponding attire at the 24th annual Golden Age Games at Monett high school.
This district competition was one of seven going on statewide and involved about 150 nursing home residents who were having fun with activities you would never confuse with the Olympics like bingo, horseshoes, soccer kicks, basketball throws and cow-milking.
"They just love coming out and doing fun things just to laugh and feel young again," explained Keri Creasey, the Activities Director for the Mt. Vernon Veterans Home.
The two most popular activities the residents wanted to try was cow-milking and hog calling.
"It's been about 95 years since I've milked a cow," joked Lawrence Plaster, who was 97 years-old.
The hog calling competition was highlighted by Christy Seedig, who showed off her lung capacity with a high-pitched squeal that lasted over a minute and left onlookers wondering if a tornado siren was going off.
When asked the secret to her success you get a matter-of-fact answer.
"I have a loud voice and I call pigs," she said with a smile.
"I thought that was pretty unique," said 102 year-old Irene Pennel when asked about Seedig's talent. She was one of the senior members of this senior group, but when asked if the others should listen to her advice because she's the elder in the room, she laughed and replied, "Oh, you can't tell other people what to do."
At the other end of the age spectrum were about 70 members of Monett high school's health occupation class who helped the competitors get around the gym and cheered them on.
"The hog-calling was super funny," said junior Willow Linton. "It's really important for me to be here because I just love seeing the residents have a great time and have this special time together. They don't get to do things like this a lot so I think it's really important for them to have this opportunity."
It was certainly a great opportunity for residents like Kay Hinson, an amputee from Aurora who tried her hand at soccer and the wheelchair race. She had dyed her hair green in the spirit of the games and although it was the first time she'd ever tried such a unique hair color, she has no plans to keep it despite getting a lot of compliments.
"No, I'm too old for that," she said.
As the wheelchair race ended the competition, you couldn't help but notice the irony that the very thing that limited their mobility was now giving them great joy as there were both smiles and tears at the finish line.
As an 89 year-old resident put it, "I've been practicing for about three months speeding down the hallways. They would call me a 'hot rod.'"
"It's about competition," said Mike Baldus of Lacoba Homes, the senior care community in Monett that sponsors the event. "That is a human nature that is ingrained in people that is still there until the very end."
"I take a lady outside on walks and the first time that we went outside she said, , 'Wow,the REAL WORLD,'" said Sophie Brodkorb, the Life Enrichment Coordinator for the Manor at Elfindale in Springfield. "People don't realize that just going outside for them is a big deal."
"The very first year we did this we had a resident who participated and she won two medals," said Tim Francka, the Director of Long-Term Care at Citizens Memorial Health Care. "She told us she was on hospice and wanted to be buried with her medals. So she was able to be buried with her medals on and that was very special.">>