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Ryman Olympics bags innovation and tech awards

Written by Michael Cummings
on December 07, 2021

Ryman Healthcare’s world-first Olympics@Ryman event has been recognised with three awards at two separate award ceremonies this week.

The Digital & Application Innovation Award at the Microsoft NZ Partner Awards 2021 was won in conjunction with New Zealand-based technology partner Aware Group.

At Ageing Asia’s Asia Pacific Eldercare Innovation Awards, Ryman also won the Best Active Ageing Programme – Residential award and the Innovation of the Year – Social Engagement Programme award.


The Eldercare Innovation Awards recognise organisations across Australasia who forge new attitudes to ageing, and improve the quality of life of older adults.

The Olympics@Ryman event, a partnership with the Australian and New Zealand Olympic Committees, involved over 700 competitors taking part in five competitive codes: lawn bowls, cycling, swimming, a walk relay and quiznastics.

The codes used innovative technologies to enable a village-wide competition at Ryman's 44 villages across New Zealand and Australia.

Participants, enthusiastically supported by village peers, competed for gold in a tournament lasting more than four weeks. The residents also had the Tokyo Olympics to inspire them.

Ryman Olympics (bowls)-2

The Aware Group used headsets to place the bowls during the two-green event.


Ryman’s oldest competitor was 92, the youngest was 67 and those competing had an average age of 81.6.

Swimmers breast-stroked 2300m in individual swimming time-trials against Olympic time-clocks. Cyclists raced virtually over a punishing time-trial course around the island of Tsunoshima in Japan.

In the newly invested Ryman sport of ‘quiznastics’ – 216 competitors were pitted against one another across 36 villages in a live Trans-Tasman quiz event.

In the 21.6km relay event, walkers raced a combined 650 kms, using fitbits and digital tracing devices in bumbags as relay batons between walkers. The tracers recorded the team’s total time, and tracked each team’s progress in a virtual climb of Mt Fuji.

Del & Cindy - Olympics 640x450 banner

The lawn bowls final, where the same game was played on two different greens supported by HoloLens ‘mixed reality’ headsets, Ryman’s long-established Hilda Ross village (playing from Hamilton) took on the Jean Sandel team, playing remotely at Christchurch’s Diana Isaac village green.

The creativity and design support of Ryman’s digital innovation partner Aware Group was key to the success of the games.

Chief Strategy Officer Mary-Anne Stone said the Olympics@Ryman had been an ambitious undertaking.

"Team members were driven along by the sheer energy of a project – the world’s first retirement village Olympics.

"We saw a chance to combine the power of sport and technology to explore and celebrate new possibilities for our residents to keep fit and have fun. Our vision was a competition that would ignite our network of 41 villages."

Given the success of the games, Ryman was definitely planning to continue running inter-village tournaments using innovative technologies, she said.

They have created an annual award recognising the "Ryman Active Aging Village of the Year".

This year’s winners, Jean Sandel in New Plymouth, took honours in the Olympics@Ryman medal tally, with a team and individuals collectively winning a gold, silver and bronze.

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