The Jiminy Wicket Project: Connecting Through Croquet
By: Brandon Cheslock, Intern, AARP International
Publish Date: March
In October 2007, James Creasey received news from the United Kingdom that his 84-year-old father, Maxwell, had suffered a stroke and was diagnosed with vascular dementia. This condition would gradually strip him of his memory, speech, and capabilities. James wanted to spend more time with his father but had a highly demanding job managing a Denver-based company for a New York City pension fund. Every 10 weeks, James would spend two weeks with his father in the United Kingdom. Maxwell’s condition was deteriorating, and James feared the summer of 2008 would be his father’s last. Growing up, Maxwell played croquet a couple of times. That summer, while vacationing in Cornwall, James made sure his father had an opportunity to play one more game. However, something unexpected happened, and that game led to many more. Croquet made Maxwell smile and also helped him reconnect to society — if only for a game. “When golf was gone because it was too precise; ping pong was too fast; cards, Scrabble, and chess were all too complicated, we could still have a heartfelt connection and smile playing croquet.” As Maxwell’s health deteriorated, his desire to play croquet persisted. James saw the profound, positive impact croquet was having on his father’s life and imagined how he could replicate the experience to improve the lives of others. With help from the Denver Alzheimer’s Association and Denver Croquet Club, James started a program called Jiminy Wicket. The program has three goals:
§ Increase awareness
§ Decrease stigmas
§ Make people smile
According to James, the metric he uses to judge the program’s success is what he calls “smiles per hour.” James estimates the program has created more than 400,000 smiles in Denver alone, and thousands more around the world.
After Maxwell’s passing in 2009, James left his lucrative career to devote more time to Jiminy Wicket. Currently, the program is being scaled so it can be implemented worldwide. The 5-year goal is to expand to 2,500 schools in five countries. Through Hoops to Hope® is an intergenerational croquet program in which students and seniors play together. Jiminy Wicket hopes to raise $400,000 in order to expand this program to 100 schools in 10 cities across the United States in 2014. Alzheimer’s knows no borders.
Each World Alzheimer’s Day, participants on three continents participate in the Jiminy Wicket World Cup. Celebrities, seniors, families, and caregivers increase awareness for Alzheimer’s by playing croquet. James says his passion to serve others keeps him working hard to expand the program, improve lives, and make people smile around the world. If the program’s expansion goes as planned, readers can expect a Jiminy Wicket program in their community within the next few years. Alzheimer’s disease cannot be prevented or cured and is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. The estimated annual cost of Alzheimer’s care in the United States is $200 billion, including $140 billion in costs to Medicare and Medicaid. With the number of patients expected to rise as baby boomers age, it is possible for annual costs to exceed $1.1 trillion by 2050. The Jiminy Wicket program offers promise, and the increase in quality of life that participants suffering from dementia receive is something worthy of more research and consideration.