Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Senior Athletes Arise from Their Chairs, but They Rock Nonetheless; Jacksonville's Over-50 Crowd Tests Its Limits in a Variety of Games

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Senior Athletes Arise from Their Chairs, but They Rock Nonetheless; Jacksonville's Over-50 Crowd Tests Its Limits in a Variety of Games

Article excerpt

Byline: DAN SCANLAN

Some lifted hundreds of pounds of clanking barbells in competition this week, while others scored points with stinging overhead slams.

Not one of them was younger than 50. Some were into their 90s. All were competing in Jacksonville's 2010 Forever Fit 50 and Beyond Senior Games for medals, fitness and fun.

Just ask Melinda Henry, 51, bench-pressing 120 pounds at the Cecil Gym and Fitness Center Tuesday.

"If you get started in fitness and be consistent, you will be surprised where your body will go and age doesn't matter at all," said Henry, a North Jacksonville personal trainer. "For me, it is about living and loving life to the fullest."

At the Cecil Community Center on Wednesday, Marilyn Peyton put some body English into her table tennis as she competed against Carol Bertani. An avid supporter of the Forever Fit games, Mayor John Peyton's 79-year-old mother has been competing for 15 years.

"I retired from work 10 years ago, so when you retire from one thing, you have to do something else," Peyton said. "I absolutely think it is wonderful. ... You meet some wonderful people who are not sitting in their rocking chairs all day."

Jacksonville's senior games are a two-decade tradition aimed at athletes of all kinds 50 and up. Sixteen sites are home to events as varied as bicycle and running races to pickleball and bridge. About 500 competitors are involved, two as old as 95.

"We know it is important for people to stay active and engaged in their community," said Mary Ferrell, program manager for the event. "They all can't go out for some of the more vigorous events, so we have croquet, table tennis, something for everyone."

'I JUST ENJOY COMPETITION'

In the Cecil gym Tuesday, 14 men and women stretched and taped up for the bench press and dead lift. …

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