- Written by Megan Joyce Megan Joyce
Sometimes May can lob a chilly day into the midst of its springtime pleasantness, but you don’t become a senior athlete without acquiring a bit of grit.
Brian Wolfe, director of operations at Lebanon Valley Family YMCA at the VA, said such was the case during the Lebanon County Senior Games, held May 13–17 at several county locations.
“The weather was almost perfect,” Wolfe said. “We had a colder day for the 1-mile walk and bocce ball, but everyone toughed it out.”
The 34th annual Senior Games were “a great opportunity to connect active adults with others who share similar interests,” said Melanie Wells, community wellness coordinator for WellSpan Good Samaritan Hospital.
Community partnerships are essential to making the games happen each spring. Sponsors for 2019 were 50plus LIFE, Aetna Coventry, Community Health Council 50+ Festival, Juniper Village, Lebanon County Area Agency on Aging, Lebanon Valley YMCA at the VA, and WellSpan Good Samaritan Hospital.
“There is a negative connotation around the word ‘senior,’” Wells said. “The wonderful folks who participated in Senior Games this year were some of the most energetic and fun-loving people I have met throughout my role at WellSpan.”
Events included table tennis, 100-meter swim, 1-mile walk, bocce ball, disc golf, billiards, horseshoes, softball throw, and basketball foul shooting, as well as cornhole — this year’s new event — and pickleball and miniature golf, which proved the most popular.
In addition to veteran game-players, the yearly competition gives interested participants the chance to try their hands at a new sport.
“During the cornhole competition, we played rounds, as opposed to the first person to 21 [points]. The average score was about nine,” Wolfe recalled. “We had a lady who never played before score 36 points. She was on fire, and it was fun to watch.”
Other new features introduced to the 2019 games were functional fitness and pickleball basic classes. And, instead of being held on the final day of the games, the awards ceremony and picnic moved to South Hills Park on May 29, in conjunction with National Senior Health and Fitness Day.
Attendance was up by about 20 people this year, Wolfe said, to a total of 75. All players were over age 50; the oldest participant was 87.
“Senior Games encourages community members to stay engaged in physical activity while maintaining social connections,” Wells said. “Social health plays a very important role in achieving good health, especially as we age, and connecting folks together in active ways is a win-win for everyone.”
Wolfe said he and his team received “nothing but positive comments” from players.
“Some said it was the best year ever,” he said. “A few people said they would like us to extend the games next year because of how fun they are.”
As the event’s organizers begin eyeing 2020, Wells said she hopes to engage players in the coming year’s planning process to ensure their needs are being met and that the Senior Games continue to showcase the community’s athletic offerings to older adults.
“I met a few folks who were either new to the area or just retired and were participating in Senior Games for the first time … these individuals have now joined pickleball games at the YMCA and bocce that is played at Fairlane Avenue Park,” Wells said.
“Connecting people to resources and encouraging them to live healthy is so rewarding. I find so much joy in other people’s happiness.”
To request more information on the Lebanon County Senior Games or to learn about opportunities and activities the Lebanon YMCA offers, call (717) 273-2691 or visit www.lebanonymca.org.