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The Benefit of Seeing What You Can Achieve at Your Age

In May, I was fortunate to compete in the National Senior Games, a multi-event held for competition for athletes 50 years of age and older. This year, the youngest competitor was age 50 and the oldest competitor was age 103.

Why Is Age Group Competition Important?

In my age group (Women 75-79 years), depending on the event, I was competing with anywhere from 7 to 11 women. This is one of the reasons I seek out competitions at National Senior Games and USATF Masters races.

Left to my local races, there are generally few if any other women competing in my age group. Win or lose, it is far more interesting to see what other women of my age can accomplish in this sport. It encourages me to continue to compete, and that requires a healthy diet, exercise and, of course, rest.

The events in which I qualified and participated were Road Races and Track and Field. However, there are more than 20 competitive activities, everything from A to V – from Archery to Volleyball – for senior athletes interested in them.

When Do Practitioners See What Can Be Done?

There are several benefits to attending the National Senior Games. One I make a point of scheduling is an optional fitness assessment that is usually held at the Senior Games Expo or headquarters. Probably your health care provider has done some of these tests during your annual visit, but personally, I’m always open for more input.

This year, we were tested for cardiovascular fitness, flexibility fitness, muscular fitness, grip strength and balance. At each of the test stations a trainer or physical therapist directed the activity, with an intern alongside them.

Although my overall score was quite high, a physical therapist who reviewed my score and, based on my performance, gave me a detailed stretch to add to my activity along with two weight-bearing exercises.

As I left her, she thanked me for allowing the interns to observe my assessment, saying it was important for them to see what could be done. The comment startled me. What could be done?

Seeing what others my age can do has been a benefit for me. I hadn’t thought about the benefit to new practitioners coming into the field as athletic trainers and physical therapists.

Who do they usually see? Do they see high school and college athletes with injuries? Do they see patients in their 70s or 80s in rehabilitation centers attempting to gain strength after one of the physical setbacks that so many of us at this age endure?

Yes, she was right. This would be one of the few opportunities for an intern to see many seniors (there were almost 12,000 participating in the Games this year) at fitness levels that allow them to participate in their sport. And that experience may be a benefit to those the interns work with later, having seen what can be accomplished through an active lifestyle, as we can maintain it, at any age of life.

The Basics – How to Participate

If National Senior Games sounds like something you may be interested in, check their website to find the State Games where you live. Some sports require the athlete to qualify at the State level in order to participate at the National Games.

Although this was a catchup year due to Covid cancellations, generally State Games are held in even-numbered years and National Games are held in odd-numbered years. State Games are being held this year, 2022, and the 2023 National Senior Games are scheduled for summer in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Check out the athletic events between A and V, some may surprise you and some include non-ambulatory competition.

When was the last time you participated in a sport? Do you miss the competition and camaraderie? And the fun?

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The Author

Mary Lou Harris is a proponent of active living, community volunteerism and inquisitive travel. After a post age 60 retirement from a career in public service, she expanded those interests to include ultra-trail running, hiking and extended-stay travel. She can be contacted through her website https://stillarunner.com or on Twitter at @stillarunner.

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