Senior Games bring out young at heart

If you just turned 50, you might not think of yourself as a senior citizen. Thanks to advancements in nutrition, preventive health care and the emphasis on physical fitness, people are staying active and feeling younger until much later in life.

Even if you aren’t quite ready to put yourself in the senior category, you may still want to enter the Washington State Senior Games, and celebrate health and quality of life through competition.

More than 2,000 competitors will descend upon the South Sound next weekend to participate in a wide variety of events ranging from pickleball to track and field and cowboy action shooting. They will take place at venues all over Thurston and Mason counties.

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. Jack Kiley, president of the host committee’s board of directors, says the purpose of the games is to promote health and fitness and enhance seniors’ sense of wellness.

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 dancing floor. There is, almost literally, something that everyone can do. You just need to get up and do it.

While most senior athletes will fall into the 60-65 range, the games’ oldest competitor last year, a 103-year-old female shot putter, is expected to return.

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

Organizers added a new event this year for rock climbers. It gets underway at 10 a.m. on Friday, July 26, at the Warehouse Rock Gym, next to Alpine Experience in downtown Olympia.

Shuffleboard is being held for the first time at the Event Center at Little Creek Casino Resort. It’s one of the games’ largest events in terms of participants.

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

The senior games have a significant impact on the South Sound. Approximately 76 percent of participants come from outside Thurston County. Organizers estimate the economic benefit to our region at $500,000.

Several of the competitions have already begun — archery, ballroom dance, softball and shuffle board got under way this week — and the main games will kick off with an opening ceremony at 8 a.m. Saturday, July 27 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.