Live Vibrantly - September 27, 2021
By Timaeus Reed
– Dennis Detlef, Member of the Goodwin House Alexandria table tennis team
At Goodwin House, we believe in living your best life. You can paint your masterpiece in one of our imaginative art programs, age safely in place in your own home or escape into a vibrant night of fine dining and cultural performances. No matter your passion, we make it our mission to uplift older adults by empowering them to achieve whatever they dream. Some residents have a passion for competing in the Northern Virginia Senior Olympics (NVSO).
One of the biggest voids felt by everyone last year was the suspension of over a century of international tradition; the International Olympic Games were canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic.
Thankfully, as the winnable battle with COVID wages on, the Olympic Games made a return this year, carrying a torch of new energy and possibilities with them. Seniors in the Northern Virginia region who never lost their hunger for the thrills of friendly competition decided they would take their part in the fun, too.
“We didn’t know how many people would participate this year,” said Michael McLaughlin, acting chairman of the NVSO organizing committee. “The pandemic makes things tricky, but I’m happy with how things are turning out. This event brings people together.”
Since 1982, the NVSO has held annual competitions to engage older adults in the spirit of fellowship and healthy aging. Unlike the International Olympic Games, event competitors are separated by gender as well as age.
The Senior Olympics are probably exactly what you think they are – only they are held annually, and the feature a broader range of activities (not just competitive sports). Adults in the region that are 50 and older gather to compete in bridge, track, dominoes, and more than a dozen other events that various ability levels can enjoy.
Each year, the NVSO attracts over 900 competitors to test their mettle. The opening ceremony for this year’s event was held Saturday, September 18, 9:30 a.m. at the Thomas Jefferson Community Center in Arlington, VA.
More than 15 residents from our two Goodwin House Life Plan Communities entered this year to compete in track events, diving, Wii bowling, table tennis and more.
Competing Goodwin House residents hit the ground running with spangled success during the 2021 games. Every year, some compete in individual events while others compete on teams, and every resident is proud to have the support of the entire Goodwin House family as they train and vie for medals. Despite the competitive element of the Olympics, many like gold medalist (Wii Bowling) and Goodwin House Bailey’s Crossroads resident Anita Morgan are just in it for the fun.
“When I was done, they came over and put a medal around my neck and I was completely stunned,” Anita said. “It never even occurred to me to keep score.”
Anita Morgan, GHBC resident, wins a gold medal in Wii Bowling at the NSVO
Since joining the Goodwin House family in 2013, Anita has only competed in the Senior Olympics once before. COVID made her hesitate to compete this year, but she was pleasantly surprised by how well the event was managed.
Competitors wore their masks whenever possible and maintained a healthy social distance, sometime beyond six feet. That made it easier for competitors to focus on their event and go for the gold. More GHA residents also entered Wii Bowling under the team name The Lucky Strikers and received medals for their performance.
Take a look at just a few of the other successful competitors from Goodwin House.
Gary Nooger, GHBC resident and annual NSVO competitor, wins bronze medals in cycling at the NSVO
Don Gurney, GHBC resident wins a silver medal in track events at the NSVO
Mandy Whalen, GHBC resident, wins gold and bronze medals in track at the NSVO
Dennis Detlef, a GHA resident perfecting his serve technique
We regularly promote the lasting health and wellness benefits of staying active and social as we age. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, staff, residents and members at Goodwin House are committed and equipped to live a rich, joyful and adventurous lifestyle. The senior Olympics are just another way our residents have chosen to live life to the fullest.
“We have a lot of unknowns about what the competition will be, but we’re having a lot of fun preparing,” said Dennis Detlef, a Goodwin House Alexandria (GHA) resident who’s been training to compete in table tennis. “We’re going into the senior Olympics with the spirit of the game, camaraderie and fair play.”
Dennis and the eight other members of “The Smashers” (their team’s name) first began practicing in April when Maura Ferrigno, Director of Life Enrichment at GHA, provided the Dennis a couple other residents with a ping-pong table. A full Olympic team quickly formed with the help of outreach from Dennis and other Life Enrichment staff.
GHA Executive Director Barbara W. D’Agostino (middle, white blouse) raises a paddle with The Smashers after practice
Before everyone came together, none of The Smashers had played the game in over 40 years, but this year they met before dinner every evening to perfect their serves and forward-hand smashes. The team made a point to study the official table tennis rules provided by the NVSO at each practice, even unexpected rules that prohibit white team shirts (white ping-pong balls and white team shirts create confusion during intense volleys). However, no amount of rules could get in the the way of all the excitement.
The smashers polishing their volley skills in the GHA Game Room
“This is a casual and fun affair,” Dennis said. “The rules say the ball needs to be thrown in the air six inches from the flat palm of the hand. Well, that’s not how most people are used to serving a ping-pong ball, but everybody is amazed at the progress that they have been able to make over the months.”
The Smashers competed in three divisions on Saturday, September 25 at the Providence Community Center in Fairfax, VA. They brought home seven medals, including a gold medal for Dennis and his doubles partner, Ken Hopper (another GHA resident).
Residents at Goodwin House are always seeking opportunities to give back to their community and make new friends. Dennis never expected to have this much fun at a senior living community when he moved into GHA three years ago. When he’s not serving up curve balls in practice, he starts his morning with a daily jog or exercise routine, shares a hearty laugh with friends over a game of bridge or sips a refreshing drink at a booming outdoor concert.
“There’s such a variety of activities at Goodwin House,” Dennis said. “My wife and I came in as relative youngsters, and it was the best decision we could have made. My two sons are so pleased that we are here enjoying this phase of our life, meeting other people and having so much available to us.”
Dennis is confident that Goodwin House will make a splash at this year’s senior Olympics. Friends, family and volunteers are welcome at every event (provided they social distance and wear masks). We invite you to attend and cheer on The Smashers and the other competitors in the coming days.
Timaeus Reed is a Marketing and Communications Specialist at GHI. He plans, writes and designs for internal and external campaigns that support all areas of the organization. He relocated from Kansas to D.C. to join the team in the summer of 2021. When he isn’t getting lost in traffic, Timaeus loves listening to live Go-Go music and stand-up comedy.