Local Elderly Care Facility Hosts Yearly Olympic Games

The PACE Olympics help older adults maintain their health, wellness, and competitive spirit.

Chickie Snyder

Betty Ann “Chickie” Snyder at the PACE Olympics. Photo provided to bostonmagazine.com

Betty Ann “Chickie” Snyder is a 65-year-old grandmother who, as of a few years ago, was too sick to leave her house. Now, she’s an Olympian.

Snyder is a participant in the PACE Olympics, a program run by elderly care facility Element Care’s Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE). The PACE Olympics brings together teams of nursing home-eligible adults ages 55 and older from PACE’s seven sites around the North Shore and Merrimack Valley to compete in events like bocce, bean bag toss, fast ball relay, and puzzle relay. Last week marked the games’ fourth year, with one of PACE’s Lynn sites taking the gold medal.

The day’s goal is about more than just fun, says Bob Wakefield, executive director of Element Care. “We’ve had people saying, ‘It’s the first time I’ve ever been on a team in my life,'” he says. “We’ve had a lot of health benefits, just feeling a lot better, and many of the vital signs have improved, too.”

Snyder can attest to that. Now in her third year of competition—this year, she participated in bean bag toss, puzzle relay, and cheerleading, because “I have a big mouth”—she was all but bedridden before finding PACE. “I was in my house for almost four years without going out the door. I was in a walker and on oxygen 24/7,” she remembers. “I was waiting to die.”

PACE’s multi-faceted health and wellness programming helped her get her health in order and her life back together, so much so that she’s had no recent major health problems and is fit enough to play baseball with her grandchildren. And of course, she’s now able to train for the PACE Olympics each year, although she says winning is never the only focus.

“We try to win, but we like to participate—everybody does,” she says. “It makes everybody feel good, especially when you think you can’t do anything. People in wheelchairs are playing games that they never thought they could do. I love it.”