Swiss care homes launch their own version of the Olympics

The Olympics and Paralympics have been dominating our TVs this summer. Now care home residents in Switzerland are getting in on the act with their own “elderly Olympics”.

Twelve retirement homes in the north-west canton of Jura sent teams to the games, where elderly people faced off in five disciplines, the RTS public broadcaster reports. From hammering nails into a block of wood, to a walking-frame slalom, 120 elderly men and women battled it out for supremacy at the event in Bassecourt.

True to tradition, there was an Olympic “flame” – a billowing silk one on this occasion – and an oath. Competitors pledged to compete “without doping and without drugs”, although perhaps not without medication, Le Matin newspaper notes.

“It pushes us a little, it’s always quiet in our rooms and then all of a sudden this happens… It’s a good initiative,” 90-year-old Annie Merset told the paper.

Fellow competitor Jeanne Lachat, among the oldest at 96, said: “It’s not important to come first. It’s about being together – but it’s also a pleasure for those who win.”

Medals were handed out on a podium by Eric Hanni, a Jura native who won a silver medal in judo at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. The 77-year-old says that he wanted to give back to the community after it supported him financially in getting to the Games 52 years ago.

The event was organised by the JURAncien association, which oversees the region’s retirement homes, and was inspired by a smaller event in Geneva. “It allows us to show that daily life in retirement homes is active, where there is a lot happening,” says Simon Coste, the association’s president.

Some residents were competitors in their younger years, he tells RTS, and the games helped to “revive” those feelings. “We want to highlight how it has brought people together, working together during several weeks of training, and above all how at the age of 99 or 100 for some, they are willing to take part fully in these types of activities.”