Burnaby seniors find healing power in playing ping pong

Normanna residents have 'thrived' singe table tennis introduced

Residents of Normanna seniors home gathered on the patio Thursday morning to watch the blue team take on the pink team in a ping pong tournament. 

The second tournament in as many months saw blue team pair Maria Uzelac and Carlos Deleone defending their championship crown. 

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Ulezac, 88, was so excited about the tournament, she called her daughter Ann the day before to ensure she would be there.

“I didn’t know she was so good,” Ann said, after watching her mother dominate a match.

Ulezac, originally from Croatia, has thrived in the 10 years she’s lived at Normanna, Ann said. Whether she’s painting, playing games or making arts and crafts, there’s never a dull moment, she said.

“She's been through so much in her life – had cancer three times, two strokes, heart attacks and all this kind of stuff – but she's been here 10 years and look at her. She's really a fighter.”

Normanna’s recreation manager, Leslie Torresan, said the ping pong table has been a hit since it was introduced to residents a few months ago. 

“We just thought it's amazing to see the residents come to life when they're playing the ping pong,” she said. “And it doesn't matter if they have a disability or a language barrier (or) cultural barrier – everyone comes together and plays.”

Torresan said Normanna staff have adapted the game to residents’ abilities, including removing the net from the centre and adding nets to the table’s sides to keep the ball in play. 

Another competitor, Rudy Nobauer, leaves his walker behind when he steps up to the table. The former racquetball player instead wears a transfer belt, which two staff members hold to keep him from falling.  

Nobauer “shocked” staff and fellow residents with his moves when he first started playing, Torresan said. 


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