Seniors Stay Fit For Games

Disproving the myth that seniors should take it easy, the National Senior Games Association (NSGA) completed their eighteenth summer national championships in May.

Established in 1985 and originally named the National Senior Olympics Organization, NSGA’s vision is to promote healthy lifestyles for adults through education, fitness, and sport. The first National Senior Olympic Games was held in 1987, with 2,500 competitors participating. Over 100,000 spectators viewed the first games ceremonies, held at the St. Louis Riverfront Arch and featuring entertainment icon Bob Hope.

After postponements and disruptions due to the pandemic, nearly 12,000 senior athletes and 15,000 family members or companions from across the U.S. attended this year’s activities in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. This turnout was the third largest in the 32-year history of the games, recognized as the largest qualified multisport event in the world. The theme was “A Reunion for the Ages.” NSGA CEO Marc T. Riker  explained, “Our athletes crave the social connections as much as the competition, and we knew they were itching to get back into the game.”

For over 13 days , more than 1,100 medal events were held in 21 different sports. Games included traditional Olympics-style activities like archery, basketball, softball, swimming, and track and filed. But games such as pickleball, shuffleboard, race walking, and cornhole were also included to reflect a wide range of sports seniors engage in. Additional special events were free and open to the public, including the flame arrival ceremony, a national documentary film premiere for “Thriving in Place,” and a two-part presentation on the intersection of Title IX, civil, and human rights.

To keep things competitive among peers, contests are held in five-year age brackets from 50 to 100+. The oldest athlete this year was 103-year-old Lindsay Tise, a golfer  from Winston-Salem, N.C. Stanley Corwin, a 97-year-old bowler from Boynton Beach, FL,  noted, “Everyone always asks about the oldest athletes, and they are truly inspiring. But we have amazing athletes and examples of healthy, active aging at every age level of the games.” Results are published by sport and can provide motivation for what is achievable at any age.

Although the games usually happen biannually, the pandemic pushed back the 2021 planned event to this year. Planning and preparation for 2023 has already begun. Next year the National Senior Olympic Games will return to Pittsburgh, PA, “The City of Champions.” And qualification requirements return; participants will once again need to qualify in one of 53 NSGA-sanctioned member state games to join at the national level. (The process had been amended due to the pandemic impact in order to allow more opportunity to qualify.)

The National Senior Olympic Games prove that seniors don’t take it easy; they take the gold. Deete Sauer, gold medalist in swimming, stated, “Never in my wildest dreams did I believe I would become an athlete in my senior years. Crazy!! Crazy good!!!”

Sources: National Senior Games Association