Nick Habscheid was looking for a way to give back to The Meadows long-term care home in Swift Current, Sask. after his grandpa, who lived in the home, died in June.
The school teacher and co-owner of Counter Punch Boxing Academy was given that opportunity after being approached by two recreation therapists from The Meadows who wanted to set up boxing classes for residents in the home.
It sparked his interest, but also presented some unique challenges.
“I wasn’t exactly sure how we were going to do all the drills with some elderly folks,” he said.
“But I got some ideas about how we could transition some of the workouts to them and it ended up being very successful.”
The Golden Gloves
The pilot project began in early March and ran for six weeks. A group of 10 residents, who named themselves The Golden Gloves, would train with members from Counter Punch Boxing Academy, two recreation therapists and other volunteers once a week.
Camille Campbell, one of the recreation therapists who helped start the project, said she wanted to pursue boxing after finding research suggesting the sport could benefit people with Parkinson’s disease because of the emphasis on balance and strength.
Habscheid, whose girlfriend also works at The Meadows, agreed to provide equipment and training for free.
“I was down to help them out in any way because I know how special and awesome that building is, and boxing is incredibly special and important to me. I’ve been doing it for almost 14 years now,” he said.
The classes included drills using punching bags, hand pads, pool noodles and battle ropes.
The Saskatchewan Health authority, which operates The Meadows, took videos of some of the classes.
Both Habscheid and Campbell said they noticed results as the program went on.
“We had people that started out with a class lasting five minutes and now they’re lasting the entire hour,” said Campbell.
Habsheid agreed, saying he noticed improvements around the residents’ balance, strength, speed and coordination.
Not only were there physical improvements, but Campbell and Habscheid said it also improved the residents’ social skills and confidence.
“Everyone in the class has created a bond,” said Campbell.
“They come a little early, just to get some chats in, and they all encourage each other so it’s really neat to see that kind of community in that class.”
Habscheid had a similar sentiment.
“There was a great social connection I felt with a lot of the people that were there,” he said.
“They want something to do and wanted to kind of talk about their life.”
‘Awesome seeing the smiles on their faces’
The project also had an impact on people running the classes.
“I felt like it was a good thing to give back to that community and there’s so many great people that live there… It was awesome seeing the smiles on their faces,” said Habscheid.
Campbell, meanwhile, said her favourite part was “actually showing them that they’re still able to do a lot of these things, even though they think they can’t.”
“When they actually figure out that they can achieve that… Just letting them feel that joy and feeling like they’re an actual person again,” she said.
Although there aren’t any formal plans to bring the program back, Campbell and Habscheid both said they hope it returns.
Campbell also has a message for those who may not approve of elderly people participating in boxing, “Don’t ever say never. Everything is possible. We just have to adapt it to our residents and their abilities.”