“You're all winners here because you make it happen,” he said to about 3,000 senior citizens from Kentucky and southern Ohio. “We can't take living for granted. Some of us are living, but we're dead. So while we are walking on this journey, and while we have life, what we need to do is what we're doing here today.”
Shortly after Oliver spoke, the seniors began competing against one another in several games, including basketball, checkers, dominoes and bowling.
Publicity director Angie Kepp said many of the seniors remember who won awards at last year's Olympics and practice all year for the games.
Besides Oliver, the opening ceremony included balloons, loud music and dancing, along with a lot of hugs and smiles.
That's just what event organizer Linda Slone wanted to see. The assistant administrator for Pleasant Hill Manor in Piketon started the Olympics eight years ago.
“When you come out to volunteer for this, you get inspired,” Slone said. “Sometimes people think, ‘What are we going to see, what are they going to be doing?' But they are very amazed when they come. It's about bringing back the respect that we have for our aging population and to see that they are still living. We gain from it. This is not a burden, it's a joy.”
The seniors were not the only ones having fun. Also in attendance were numerous younger people representing about 50 nursing homes in the two states. They were assisting the seniors in various ways.
“This gives the young people here a chance to really enjoy the elderly,” Slone said. “You get really tired of looking at the newspaper and see all the bad that's going on. We need to focus more on the positive.”
She said seniors like the ones in the Olympics can inspire the younger generation.
“This is a dying generation of values,” Slone said. “We need to get with our grandmas and grandpas and talk to them. Ask them questions. Let them tell us what it was like because that helps us in the years to come.”
While there were games aplenty, the Olympics were more than just competition. Several musical acts, including an Elvis impersonator, were scheduled to perform throughout the day.
JEFF BARRON can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 236.