As elite athletes from around the globe descend on London this summer, another group of Olympians will be rooting them on from their West Virginia nursing home.

For 20 years, a team of geriatric Olympians from Cedar Ridge Nursing and Rehabilitation, in Sissonville, has dominated West Virginia’s Geri Olympic Games. While they are not going to London this year, in 2008, the team made its international debut and brought home the team gold medal after competing against the Czech team in Prague.

Chip Palmer, RN, coached the team that year and accompanied the team to Prague. Any resident who wants to participate can — even team members with Alzheimer’s made the trip to Prague. As a safety precaution, the ratio of caregivers to residents was about 1:1.

Palmer says training for future and past Olympic events has helped the memory care residents with agitated dementia behaviors. Training adds structure to the residents’ day, a helpful tool in mitigating agitation.

Palmer has since turned coaching duties over to Cedar Ridge’s activities director, but still enjoys pitching in when needed.

“The [residents] were very excited about being able to participate in the games and to be able to win a trophy. It seems like they have a greater sense of self worth,” Palmer says.