Undeterred by major sporting events being cancelled or played behind closed doors due to the pandemic, care homes across the country are taking matters into their own hands.
All 114 care homes run by Anchor Hanover, England’s largest not-for-profit provider of care and housing for older people, will be hosting their very own Summer of Sport: a special tournament encouraging physical activity and uniting the nation in a shared love of sports. The tournament comes at a time when 7.2million older people in England are physically inactive*.
The Summer of Sport will be held from Monday, 20 July to Sunday, 26 July – the same week when the Opening Ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics would have been held.
The tournament will see care home residents taking part in a range of sporting activities, including one-minute daily challenges in disciplines such as basketball, cricket, football, table tennis, golf and rugby. All care homes have been provided with sports equipment specially adapted for people living with dementia, ensuring all residents are able to participate.
Residents across the country will be in friendly competition for coveted trophies which will be awarded during a special closing ceremony, co-ordinated across all care homes, on Sunday 26 July.
During the week, care home gardens will be transformed into cricket pitches and basketball courts, and lounges will host table tennis matches. Although many sports now have to be played without spectators, care home staff will be there to cheer residents on, helping them stay fit and healthy during this time.
The Summer of Sport will also be a chance for residents like Maureen Leeming (76), who lives at Anchor’s Borrage House care home in Harrogate, to reminisce about their own incredible sporting memories. When Maureen was 18, in 1962, she qualified for the Commonwealth Games representing Northern Ireland. Maureen used to run on the same track as Roger Bannister, whom she always regarded as an inspiration.
One of her favourite memories is attending a sporting event at a factory in Nottingham, where her friend challenged her to run a race. Initially Maureen didn’t want to do it as she wasn’t dressed for running, but eventually, she decided to join in. She took her shoes off and running barefoot in her dress, she won the race.
“My whole life has been connected to sport in one way or another. I loved athletics, and sprinting was my favourite discipline. It’s wonderful how sport can bring people together – there are so many wonderful memories I have from my time as an athlete, that I share with my family and friends. I once won a race bare foot – I don’t think I’ll ever forget that day!”
Another resident with a long-held connection to sport is Mike Judd (80), who lives at Anchor’s Savile Park care home in Halifax and has spent most of his life involved with his local football club, Stony Stratford Town FC. Over 30 years he ended up taking on many roles in the club, including assistant manager, referee, youth secretary, groundsman, barman and vice chairman. Mike has won many awards for his commitment to the club, including the FA’s Volunteer of the Year in 2011. He fondly remembers that day. He got to go on the pitch in front of 90,000 people, his name appearing on the electronic boards during the game – a fitting recognition of his lifelong commitment to football.
“I have loved football since I was 5 or 6 years old and have enjoyed my life involved in the sport. The awards were just an additional extra for me. I am looking forward to the Summer of Sport and seeing everyone join in. I can no longer play football, but I can still watch and tell them how to kick it! It would be lovely to be able to see some of my old mates again.”
Jane Ashcroft CBE, Chief Executive of Anchor Hanover, said:
“We know how much sport means to many of our residents, and to their physical and mental wellbeing. With major sporting events cancelled this year, we didn’t want our residents to miss out, so we decided to take matters into our own hands. The Olympics might not be going ahead this year, but we’re ready to cheer our residents on as they take on their own sporting challenges.
“Sport is a passion that’s shared by so many people across the country, regardless of age, gender, ability or background. As well as helping people keep fit, we want our Summer of Sport to bring people across the country together. Our residents have enjoyed sharing incredible memories of their sporting lives, and we’re calling on the public to join us by sharing their memories and joining in our tournament.”