Wimbledon Tennis Championships recently finished and now that the long queues for strawberries and cream have dissipated, it was exciting to discover that one of the “family members” living at Hatherleigh Nursing Home, 81 year-old Rosie Jewell, was a former tennis player who played in the under eighteens team at the Wimbledon Championships in 1954, getting through to the quarter finals. Jewell is her married name, but in 1954 she was playing under her maiden name, Rosemary Wooller.

Rosie has lived at the 53-bed home near Okehampton for the last two and a half years, and they knew that she played tennis competitively at the highest levels when she was younger as they take time when one moves in to the home to learn everything they can about each family member’s identity/life history.

When she was growing up as an only child and she was home from boarding school in the long summer months, she took up tennis and began to show promise, winning the singles title in her hometown, Colwyn Bay, in 1951 when she was just thirteen. When she was sixteen, she was selected to play in the British under eighteen team in the 1954 Wimbledon Championships, getting through to the quarter finals. She also went on to play for the North Wales County team in 1957 so she must have been a very talented player indeed.

Rosie now lives with dementia, a condition that progressively weakens the recall abilities of everyone that has it. Ashley, Hatherleigh’s Home Manager, said that “although Rosie’s dementia had affected her memory, her love of ball games has stayed strong. When our team members ask her if she’d like to play catch, you can see her face light up instantly with anticipation, her eyes sparkling. Rosie loves playing catch with a softly inflated beach ball.”

For anyone who lives with dementia, games that include hand and eye coordination are excellent, and introducing games into the everyday lives of people living in care has been proven to improve their cognitive, social and physical wellbeing.

Ashley continued “Rosie’s hands unerringly caught the ball each time it was thrown to her, her hand and eye coordination presumably honed from her years of tennis playing, and our team were clearly enjoying the game, too.”

The home knows that participating in games keeps our brains active and there are also the physical benefits of the exercise, plus the sense of accomplishment that playing a game can bring. If you visited the home whilst Wimbledon was on, Rosie would definitely have been the one sitting at the front, watching the television closely to ensure the umpires were making all the correct calls, and of course, strawberries and cream served for all.

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