Senior Games more than competition

Do you think of yourself as a senior citizen?

Many people age 50 and older aren’t quite ready to put themselves in that category, but they are eligible to compete in the Washington State Senior Games.

With advancements in nutrition, preventive health care and the emphasis on physical fitness, people are staying active longer in life. This has created a higher level of competition at the State Senior Games, which serves as a national qualifying event for the U.S. Senior Games next summer in Cleveland.

But don’t let the many elite athletes, who are likely to compete during the July 26-29 stretch of main events, scare you off. These are amateur games, and they’re designed to get people of all abilities off the couch and on the track, or in the bowling alley.

Heck, you can even don a cowboy outfit and compete in the Cowboy Action Shooting event. Or, put on some flashy attire and sweep your partner around the ballroom dance floor. There is, almost literally, something that everyone can do. You just need to get out and do it.

The bulk of the nearly 2,000 competitors who will arrive here in a little more than a week will fall into the 60-65 age range. Although organizer Jack Kiley, president of Puget Sound Senior Games, the host committee for the state event, expects the return of the games’ oldest competitor last year, a 102-year-old shot putter.

We’re guessing there won’t be a lot of competition in that class. But there could be.

Thurston Commissioner Cathy Wolfe, who is not nearly 100 years old, is organizing a bowling team with county Health Officer Dr. Diana Yu, as part of an initiative to encourage seniors to get healthy, which also would put less strain on the region’s health care system.

The state games really were started in 1998 by Elizabeth and Dave Nabors, a Panorama couple who had previously competed in Pennsylvania in race walking and the shot put. Most states in the U.S. have some form of senior athletic games.

Although two of the competitions have already begun – cycling and dance got under way July 7, softball started last week, and golf and archery begin this week – the main games will kick off with an open ceremony at 8 a.m. July 28 at Tumwater High School stadium.

Even if you can’t compete this year, coming out to watch can be purely entertaining. It’s a chance for grandchildren to take their turns cheering on grandma and grandpa.

And everyone can witness first-hand the rewards of an active lifestyle.