Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Golden Oldies: Active Older Athletes Prove They Can Be Competitive at Any Age at the Senior Games

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Golden Oldies: Active Older Athletes Prove They Can Be Competitive at Any Age at the Senior Games

Article excerpt

Many things--fine wine, fancy cheese, your favorite pair of jeans --tend to get better with age, and that's certainly the case with the hundreds of athletes who participate each year in the Virginia Senior Games. Also held in other states across the country, the Senior Games provide a fun, competitive platform for athletes age 50 and older to show off their skills in a wide range of events. Everything from shuffleboard and mini-golf to cycling, softball, swimming, canasta and still other activities are represented, allowing more-and less-active seniors a chance at winning accolades and bragging rights.

Respecting Our Elders

The Virginia Senior Games have history stretching back to the late 1970s, when only four U.S. states held such events. Over the years, the games went through several name changes and a great deal of expansion, adding locations and participants. Since 1987, the Virginia Senior Games has served as a qualifying event for the National Senior Games, held every four years and often referred to as the Senior Olympics. "That year, 67 senior athletes represented the Commonwealth at the first national event in St. Louis and brought home 29 medals," says Karen Washington, superintendent of youth programs at Newport News Recreation and Tourism, which is hosting the Virginia Senior Games this year. So far, more than 600 athletes have signed up for the 2014 games, held May 14--17 at a handful of different spots in Newport News, Virginia. "We are confident that we will get more than 1,000 participants," Washington adds, noting of those, between 20 and 30 percent are first-timers.

Organizers of the Virginia Senior Games select which contests will be included each year based both on those that will serve as qualifiers for the National Senior Games as well as popular demand. "Virginia traditional sports were selected because of popularity in past games or requests by participants," Washington explains. "Billiards, canasta, disc golf, mini-golf and softball hit-and-throw are all sports that Virginia offers outside of the national qualifying sports."

Local businesses also have a hand in the success of the games. Fitness centers, schools, bowling alleys and the popular City Center at Oyster Point all will host events, including the Athlete's Party and Wellness Pair. Add to that the labor of hundreds of volunteers and support of enthusiastic friends and family members, and you've got all the ingredients for a truly inspirational athletic showcase. "It's a multigenerational event that involves volunteers, young people and senior citizens," Washington says. …

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