Just Because You Are Older Doesn't Mean You Have to Give Up Sport
Strawbridge, Marilyn, JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance
Advocacy for physical activity across the lifespan is a priority in the mission statement of the American Association for Physical Activity and Recreation (AAPAR). As a large segment of the United States population ages, it is even more important to create opportunities for Americans to stay active. As an aging professional among the AAPAR ranks, I feel the need to remind others that advocating for opportunities is not only needed, it will affect each of us. We are all aging. We become more aware of this reality when we realize that we just cannot do what we used to be able to do. Because physical function is so central to our lives, our management of it and our attitude toward it also changes as we age. Thanks to modern science, we now know much more about the aging process, and consequently many individuals are living a longer, more productive life. We also know that age alone need not prevent us from engaging in a variety of physical activities, including sports, and that activity can prevent or postpone many of the conditions that afflict older adults.
Many older adults, particularly those who played sports when they were younger, would like to continue to participate in these activities later in life, but find that the limitations imposed by aging, injury, illness or lack of opportunity prevent them from participating as much as before or altogether. Even healthy seniors may need to limit their activity levels in order to reduce the risk of injury and to participate satisfactorily. Modifications to various sport activities, however, can enable older people to participate in an enjoyable and safe manner. Many sport organizations have made modifications to rules and equipment to encourage older athletes to participate. These groups, such as the Senior Games and other more sport-specific organizations, embrace older athletes. For example, to accommodate the decreased strength and flexibility that accompanies the aging process, using a lighter shot or decreasing the distance between hurdles in a track and field competition could enable older athletes to participate. Event distances and specifications can also be altered, courts can be decreased in size, and other rule changes in sport codes can accommodate other age-related changes. Pickleball is a great example of a modified sport. The important thing is for people to find satisfaction and fulfillment in both old and new sport activities. Most people underestimate the potential of older adults to participate successfully and enjoy sports. Instead of thinking that one cannot participate, realize that it is quite possible if a few accommodations are made.
The oldest baby boomers turn 65 years of age this year. The number of people 65 and older is expected to triple within 50 years. Health and sport scientists have stated that there is no other segment of the population that can benefit more from physical activity than the elderly. Many organizations have created guidelines that provide scientifically based recommendations about the types and amounts of physical activity that can lead to important health benefits, even for older adults. …