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Winter Wonderland

Reprinted from PN January 2013

The winter months are a great time to have fun keeping your body and mind active and healthy.

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We all know the classic holiday song that says “The weather outside is frightful, but the fire inside is delightful.” Sure, that fire is nice and winter can be rough, but there’s no need to spend these colder months all hunkered down.

The post-holiday winter season is a wonderful time of year to explore activities and events that can benefit body and mind. Some activities are obvious this time of year, and many have made special adaptations to include wheelchair users.

If you’re not inclined to some of the more physical pursuits, there are plenty of things to keep you busy. Whether you want to expand your mind, improve your mental well-being or just socialize, the colder months are perfect for working on more cerebral activities.

This is by no means a complete list, but the crack staff at PN has come up with these excellent ideas to avoid winter boredom.

Move to a Museum

Whatever the weather is like in your part of the country, visiting a museum is a great way to spend a winter day with friends or on your own.

No matter if it’s art, science, natural history, or mustard (yes, a museum is dedicated to mustard in Middleton, Wis.), most museums have special hours and exhibits for the winter season. Some have specific events that include Friday night happy hours for adults only, hands-on exhibits, and appearances by artists and lecturers.

One of the best parts of hitting up a museum is that you’ll find a large majority of them wheelchair accessible. One place in particular that is known for its accessibility is the de Young Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco.


Curling is a sport played on ice. Here, Patrick McDonald eases the stone down the ice for Team USA at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Paralympic Games.

The 2006 Paralyzed Veterans of America Barrier Free America Award winner, the de Young covers almost 300,000 square feet in Golden Gate Park. However, accessible design features such as four separate entrances to cut down travel time, hard floor surfaces, and no ramps make it easy to navigate. The museum also features Access Docents to help with tours.

For more information on the de Young Museum, visit deyoung.famsf.org.

Let It Slide

Indoor activities that involve a bit of winter, a little physical effort, some skill and a dash of good luck are hard to come by, but wheelchair curling has it all.

Wheelchair curling is played with the same stones and on the same ice as regular curling. However, the stones are thrown from a stationary wheelchair, and there is no sweeping. The stones may be thrown by hand while leaning over the side of the wheelchair or pushed by a special shuffleboard-type pole.

Because there are no sweepers and a pole can be used to push the stones, wheelchair curling can be played by people with a wide range of disabilities. The idea is to slide your stone down to the target at the other end of the ice. Points are awarded for where the stone stops, but be careful! Stones can be bumped from the target zone by an opponent’s throw.

Curling can be competitive or recreational and is often very social, similar to bowling. An added plus is that your drinks always stay cold.

For more information on wheelchair curling, visit curlingrocks.net. To find an ice rink near you, visit findrinks.com.

Head of the Class

Whether you’re interested in learning more about wine or becoming a better cook, need to brush up on computer skills or become better acquainted with social media, winter is the perfect time to head back to school.

Community colleges, universities, libraries, community centers and other places offer all kinds of classes and seminars to cover every interest. Some classes could be as short as an hour or two while others may be a bit more involved and need a little more time commitment.

A nice perk is that many of these programs are free or provided at a great discount for seniors or veterans. Some classes are online so you never have to leave home.

Besides the straightforward benefits of learning, there are other advantages of going to class such as:

- Keeping your mind sharp

- Improving memory

- Increasing self-confidence

- Providing a feeling of accomplishment

- Meeting people who share your interests

The best place to start in finding a class is to pick what interests you and go from there. Check with your local parks and recreation departments and colleges to see what is available.

Hit the Slopes

There aren’t too many things that seem to go together as well as skiing and winter, but don’t think using a wheelchair makes it hard to enjoy swooshing down the slopes.

Sit skiing or mono-skiing are always fan favorites at the Winter Paralympic Games and continue to see an increase in popularity across the United States. One of the most attractive aspects of the sport is that it’s adaptable for a wide age range of people with varying degrees of SCI, including quadriplegia.

Mono-skis have a specially fitted chair over a single ski. Bi-skis have two independently moving skis. The chair includes seat belts and other strapping, as well as a suspension device to minimize wear and tear on the skier’s body. Depending on the skill level and physical ability of the skier, poles or outriggers (poles with short skis on the end) can be used for propulsion and balance.

The mountain views and fresh outdoor air help make sit skiing just as rewarding mentally as it is physically.

Veterans can get a taste of the sport at the annual National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic in Snowmass Village, Colo., March 31–April 5.

For more information, visit wintersportsclinic.va.gov.

Ante Up

How about a good old-fashioned poker night with family or friends to help take the edge off a few of those long winter evenings?

A poker get-together doesn’t have to be high stakes. It could be penny ante or a different card game such as bridge. For that matter, it doesn’t even have to be cards. Any type of multiplayer board game such as Monopoly can be used for a fun social evening.

Some video games can be a great option, too, even if you aren’t the biggest “gamer” out there. Games such as Wii bowling are easy to play for everyone and even offer a bit of exercise with the actual motion of your arm throwing the ball down the lane on the screen.

Some games can let you play against other friends when they aren’t in the same city. Internet connections let you play and connect with people from around the world. Video conferencing software such as Skype can even let you see and talk to someone while playing them in chess or any other game. 

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Winter Wonderland

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