- Written by Megan Joyce Megan Joyce
They hadn’t all been together since 2019.
Like a lot of public events, the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the Lancaster Senior Games in both 2020 and 2021. But the weeklong event and the local athletes who look forward to it each year finally sprung back to life May 2-6.
Most games were held at Spooky Nook Sports in Manheim; a few, such as golfing and bowling, were held offsite.
“With us having missed two years, we seemed to get in the groove pretty fast,” Lisa Paulson, senior center program director for the Lancaster County Office of Aging, said. “The participants were very happy that we held the games again.”
Since 1989, the Lancaster Senior Games has welcomed county athletes age 55 and over for five days of undeniable athleticism and friendly competition, as well as the inevitable camaraderie that often results.
“I think it forms a community in itself,” Paulson said of the games. “People enjoy seeing each other at the events. Some people know each other from high school and only reunite once a year at the games.”
The oldest participant this year was 98, Paulson said.
“The event also promotes people staying active all year long, which helps with quality of life for seniors.”
Their enthusiasm was evident in the numbers: Despite the two-year hiatus and lingering COVID concerns, the 2022 Senior Games comprised 807 athletes, down just 100 from average.
The county office of aging’s Senior Games Planning Committee coordinates the annual games with the help of more than 325 volunteers, who are essential to the organization, planning, and staffing of the nearly 30 scheduled indoor and outdoor events.
These included a wide range of activities, from weightlifting, table tennis, swimming, and bocce to Wii games, pinochle, basketball, and Frisbee, softball, and football throws.
New offerings for 2022 were acrylic painting, tai chi for arthritis, Move Your Body, Bingocize, SilverSneakers fitness, and drumming.
“These events allow people who are not competitive something to do. They were well attended,” Paulson said.
Unfortunately, the outdoor events are always at the mercy of Mother Nature, and she was not entirely cooperative this year.
Rain caused the track events to be canceled Wednesday, and Friday’s golf events succumbed as well. Golfers will receive a voucher from the golf course to use another time, Paulson said.
Senior Games staff and volunteers receive constructive feedback from participants throughout the course of the week; Paulson said most was very positive.
“We always welcome suggestions! We just ask that people understand that we’re not a large sporting-event company that puts on the games,” she said. “Most of us are volunteers and have limits to what we can do.”
Observations and collected feedback will be put to quick use, Paulson said, as plans for 2023 will soon begin.
“We did see some areas that need to be changed and are going to start working on those in June,” she said.
Her favorite takeaway from her involvement in the Senior Games, Paulson said, is the connections she gets to watch form, amongst both onetime friends and former strangers.
One participant was interviewed by a local newspaper; an old friend saw the story and came to the games so they could reconnect.
“I absolutely love the stories of how participants met other people and formed friendships!” Paulson said. “It’s so important to our mental health to have other people in our lives, and as we get older, it gets harder to meet people.”
She recounted another story of six people who met the first day of the games, “became friendly, and ended up staying together the entire week. At the end, they exchanged phone numbers so they can keep in contact.”
For more information on the Lancaster Senior Games, call the Office of Aging at (717) 299-7979 or visit the Lancaster Senior Games website (lancseniorgames.org).
For a complete list of 2022 results, visit lancseniorgames.org/rankings.