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Parker Jewish holds Senior Olympics

Double amputee Bob Chmela could hardly contain himself as he waited for the first of “Senior Olympics” events to begin.
“I’m ready. I’ve got my prosthetics on and just let me go,” he said in preparation of the basketball, wheelchair races, and golf putting competitions held in the sunny courtyard of Parker Jewish Institute for Health Care & Rehabilitation in New Hyde Park.
“I do exercise every day. If I didn’t I would be dead,” Chmela said.
Chmela, a 63-year-old Little Neck native who lost his legs to Peripheral Vascular Disease four years, also carried the Olympic torch to start the ceremony.
“This is a nice thing that they do for the residents,” he said of the event, held on Monday, September 24 and attended by local Assemblymember Mark Weprin.
Although Parker has held Senior Olympic Games in the past, it had been some time since the last event, said Tara Buoncord-Rut, Co-Chair of the event.
This year officials timed the event in conjunction with the hospital’s centennial and hope to continue the tradition next year.
“It’s comparing us being 100 years young with the Olympics being 3,000 years old,” said Michael Rosenblut, President and CEO of Parker.
Residents also had the chance to participate in bowling, beanbag toss, spelling bees, ball toss challenges, egg relays, bagging challenges, and a trivia challenge, which was held for all Olympiads.
“There is no better way to show respect for seniors then by putting on an event like this,” said Stuart Almer, Executive Vice President at Parker.
“It’s for the residents; that’s really who it’s for,” said Co-Chair Maribeth Lavin of Belle Harbor. “The smiles on their faces speak to it.”
The event also featured three hand-painted banners, created by 45 seniors and Art Director Karen Cohen, and one of banners was dedicated in memory of 62-year-old Lavin’s mother, who passed away from cancer in July.
“My mom believed in living life to the fullest,” Lavin said. “Here we are in a nursing home, and the perception is that they are not living life to the fullest, but that’s the furthest thing from the truth.”
Instead, residents have the opportunity to be involved in all sorts of recreational activities, said Ron Shafran, Assistant Vice President for Public Affairs and Government Relations at Parker.
“We open all kinds of avenues to be creative and to explore new things,” said Edith Shapiro, the Director of Therapeutic Recreation at Parker.
The biggest challenge to holding the Olympics, Shapiro said, was getting all of the 72 participants, most of who were using wheelchairs, to one place.
“We constantly adapt to their needs, not them to us,” said Jacob Berlin, from Parker’s Therapeutic Recreation Department.
During the Olympic event, Kate Leiber, 91, praised the activities and staff for giving residents “spirit.”
“We are very lucky to be here,” she said, before taking her turn to putt.

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