Indoor curling taking over the COA

On any given Monday, Tuesday, or Friday at the Council on Aging (COA), a group of seniors can be found in the gym playing a game that at first sight resembles shuffleboard or cornhole — with discs sliding across the floor to a target filled with other discs.

But the game the seniors are playing is indoor curling, which ditches the ice and brooms of the sport’s Olympic variant in favor of a hardwood floor and plastic discs that skid across the floor toward a tarp with concentric circles on it.

Indoor curling is organized by 88-year-old Pat Bibbo, who also spearheads the council’s bocce program. The program includes a travel team that competes against those of several other area COAs.

Indoor curling, Bibbo explained, began as a way to keep the bocce group together during the colder winter months when playing outside was not possible. The game was suggested by a council board member, and attendees took to it quickly.

“I showed up and of course I’m looking for brooms and ice. Anyway, we took it out of the box. And I made a court, thought about it, with the court, it’s perfect, where we have it,” he said, explaining that the program has now gone on for eight years.

On the two days where the group does not play indoor curling, they get together for chair volleyball, which began last month.

Bibbo said the bocce group predates him at the council, but he has helped grow its membership from about 12 players to dozens. He says he joins in on playing when there is a dearth of players, but primarily serves as organizer. Bibbo said the program’s growth can be attributed to a communal bond between its players.

“We’ve grown into a family,” he said. “I call it a family and that’s what we are.”

On Monday, Bibbo’s group grew to 24 people, an unusually high number for a single day that he attributed to the snow, rain, and high wind that swept through the region Tuesday.

In fact, despite being the shortest month of the year, February brought the highest attendance of any month for Bibbo’s group, with more than 300 people attending one of the programs.

Among those in attendance Monday was 81-year-old Liz Michaud, who first started the council’s bocce program before Bibbo took the reins. She said bocce sprung out of a desire to have more outside activities at the council, which at the time offered only golf.

While Michaud conceded that bocce remains her favorite activity, she said indoor curling was an important way to stay connected to the family that sprung from the bocce group.

“It was too cold to play outside and we had formed a family of friends that love playing together so Pat discovered indoor curling and we all thought we were going to come with ice skates,” she said. “We love it.”

Michaud explained that one of the reasons she keeps coming back is for the fun of being able to talk to different people throughout the program, as players rotate teams while playing.

“We root for everybody, even when they’re on the wrong team,” she said.

That spirit was on display Monday, with attendees clapping in support after nearly every shot.

Vincent Caroteneuto, 79, moved to town just two years ago as outdoor activities returned after the COVID-19 pandemic. He immediately identified bocce as a way to meet people.

“This is my friends and my family right now,” he said.