”What is this for? I heard the young boy ask as he held up a piece of equipment. The onlookers laughed, one of the gentlemen said, “That’s a bridge.” I looked at the man who answered the young boy’s question. He was sitting in a motorized wheelchair, leaning forward watching the pool table intensely with amusement. “A bridge?” the boy asked. The older man moved closer to the boy and the table, “Yes, it is what supports the stick when taking a shot. It’s so that you don’t have any (the man moved his hand) , when you shoot. It is good for you.” The woman sitting in the wheelchair watching the game, looked at me with a smile in her eyes. I found myself laughing and smiling. The boy ,who was very sure of his skills, was playing one of the staff. One of the resident’s had just taken a break, from playing the staff member. Did I say playing the staff? Yes, I did!
Salem Place Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Conway, where this scene unfolded, is on quite a culture change journey. They created the “man cave” at the request of residents (despite its name, women are welcome), and it has been quite a hit with the men and the staff.
The community has benefited from and assisted with the man cave as well. The University of Central Arkansas and Hendrix College have both given the home team jerseys, and jerseys from more Arkansas sports teams are on their way. The jerseys will be framed and hung in the man cave. A staff member is also donating his collection of racecar driver Mark Martin memorabilia. “This has been the most fun ever!” Administrator Vickey Kirkemier said.
The pool table is just one feature of the man cave area. The staff is staying after work hours to play with each other and the residents. But it has not been all fun and games! (Sorry, couldn’t help myself.) Vickey has had to handle comments from some family members who have seen staff members playing pool and wondered why they weren’t getting actual work done. Vickey was laughing when she told me this, because the staff had actually clocked out and were staying to play on their own time. Talk about change and mindset!
After visiting this home, I began thinking about the interaction between old and young. I found several articles on playing pool and aging. Some of the facts hit home. Older pool players wrote that the complexity of the game meant that it could take a lifetime to learn, and what makes pool a favorite pastime is that it can be enjoyed by a 10-year-old or a 90-year-old. How true! Another one wrote about how the young players have great eyes and motor skills, while he was forced to depend on his experience (remember the bridge question). He felt that he was still a good thinker and had patience. He said kids make mistakes, they do something…young. He felt he could wait for a shot. The man cave was still under construction during my visit, but the residents and staff started playing pool as soon as the table was set up in the area. Waiting for a shot may take patience, but fortunately, waiting to have fun is not a requirement of the “cave!”
The home also started a book club that many women, men and staff are beginning to enjoy. I wonder if the next book the club reads will be Byrne’s Complete Book of Pool Shots: 350 Moves Every Player Should Know?