Triathlons not Checkers, Seniors have Competitive Spirit.

May 18, 2017

 For decades, the word “athlete” was synonymous with young men. However, today there are many groups of people competing in sports that are living contradictions of that stereotype. Despite much progress in diversity, one group that is often unfairly overlooked is the senior population. While it’s obvious that senior citizens face more physical challenges than many prototypical “athletes,” that hasn’t stopped thousands of people over the age of 60 from participating in competitive sports.

There are seniors active in a host of different sporting venues, but one shining example is the National Senior Games. Commonly called the “Senior Olympics” and first hosted in 1987, The National Senior Games is a biennial competition that features over 10,000 senior athletes across 19 different sports. And yes, while shuffleboard is included, entrants also compete in sports such as triathlon, basketball, and archery. The 2017 games, held in Birmingham, Alabama, saw athletes ranging from 50 years old to 101 year old Julia Hawkins. Hawkins, a native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, competed in the 50 and 100 yard dash as well as the cycling road race. If that wasn’t impressive enough, she only started running last year at age 100!

While the Senior Games may not be accessible to all, there are also ample opportunities for seniors to get involved in competitive sports within their own communities. One interesting option for seniors is the prospect of joining a local rowing club. Rowing is a sport that provides cardiovascular exercise while simultaneously working muscles all over the body. Rowing is executed on a rolling seat, so for seniors, it is a great way to exercise without putting excess stress on joints. From a competitive standpoint, club rowing features championships for senior rowers at local, state, and national levels. In fact, the world’s largest rowing competition, The Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston, has often featured competitors in their 70’s and 80’s.

Rowing is a sport that attracts newcomers at every stage in life. Uniquely, it is one of the only competitive sports where many athletes only begin their careers at the collegiate level. While not exactly a senior citizen, army veteran Sean Tulley, recently began rowing competitively for St. Mary’s University as he prepared to celebrate his 50th birthday!

Competitive sports are a great way for seniors to stay physically active and engaged in the community. Seniors need only the motivation to seek out one of the many opportunities available, so why not trade the TV remote for a tennis racquet?

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