May 12, 2008

AUSTRALIA: They fight off old age with fencing

Senior Peter Aikins (left) takes on Eileen Fahey

May 12, 2008:

It's bye-bye bingo, and so long sewing, the old folks at an Australian seniors home have found a new activity to sharpen their wits and steel their bodies -- fencing.

The group at Melbourne's Catholic Homes Corpus Christi, most of whom are retired priests and nuns, have spent the past nine months studying swordplay and are learning to leave their walking sticks behind and lunge like Zorro.

The home's lifestyle coordinator Patricia Boyd said she never intended to offer fencing as one of the home's activities but was convinced by instructor Joseph D'Onofrio who came to work at Corpus Christi as a volunteer.

The residents were also hesitant, until D'Onofrio spoke to them about the sport and how it would be almost impossible for them to get hurt.

"They thought fencing? No, that was quite strange," Boyd said.

"But Joseph came along and he spoke to them and he actually went into how it's very spiritual.

"It just went from strength to strength and they've become very good at it."

About 16 residents aged over 80, including 93-year-old Sister Delores Kirby, now take part in the Monday sessions.

"It's very unusual at our age," Kirby, a retired nun from the Faithful Companions of Jesus order, told AFP.

"It's a challenge. I'm always a bit afraid I might fall over."

Copyright © 2008 AFP.