Campus & Community

Students, seniors come together in unique croquet partnership

DU students and local senior citizens gathered on campus in September to play croquet. Photo: Michael Furman

DU students and local senior citizens gathered on campus in September to play croquet. Photo: Michael Furman

Once a month, a group of roughly 10 DU students and staff gather in the Centennial Towers ballroom to play croquet. The sound of mallets smashing balls across the fake grass raises the curiosity of many passersby — many of who watch and ask questions. What is going on? Why are you doing this?

Through a partnership with the DU Office of Religious and Spiritual Life and local nonprofit Jiminy Wicket’s “Through Hoops to Hope” program, members of the DU community are playing croquet with residents of area nursing homes.

“I got a call in the fall of 2013 asking about opportunities for partnering. I thought it was a great opportunity for intergenerational service,” says University Chaplain Gary Brower.

James Creasey founded Jiminy Wicket in 2013 after witnessing his father’s decline into dementia. “Golf was gone because it’s too precise; and card games, Scrabble and chess were all too complicated,” Creasey says. “We were left with croquet. It put a smile on his face, even when he was in post-verbal stages of dementia.”

Participants meet an hour before the seniors arrive. They are taught the game of croquet and given a brief presentation on Alzheimer’s and the isolation of aging. Seniors living in facilities receive, on average, one visit a year. “We just want to get people out of their facilities, to smile and to socialize,” Creasey says.

At September’s “From Hoops to Hope” session, participants ranged in nearly everything — from age to major to reason for being there. Some students had family members diagnosed with dementia, while others work with Brower and still others are involved in the DU Service and Change, a student organization that connects the University community with volunteer opportunities (DUSC).

“Students like it because many of the seniors who participate are DU alums,” Brower says. “It is really special to hear what their experience was on campus and how campus has changed. In fact, one of the participants last year was one of the first women to attend DU. Without this program, we would have never heard her story.”

“Volunteering with seniors with Alzheimer’s leads to many difficult experiences, but it is so rewarding,” says Sarah Yaffe, president of DUSC. “I have met many seniors with amazing stories, and seeing their smiles when we play croquet makes it all worth it.”

Croquet will be played on Oct. 23, Nov. 6, Jan. 22, Feb. 19, March 4, April 15, and May 13. Sessions runs from 1:30-3:30 p.m. in the Centennial Towers ballroom.


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