The serious side of play: These senior athletes are passionate for competition

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“Stay consistent, stay persistent, and stay in motion” are words that Anna K lives by.

At 106 year-old, Anna was the oldest team member at last week’s 12th ASC Seniors Games in Winnipeg.

She is living proof it’s never too late to get competitive. One of Sturgeon Creek II Retirement Residence’s original tenants, Anna is a big supporter of the Games because being a part of a team builds trust with your peers and within yourself.

“It’s great for morale to get everyone excited about being a part of something bigger themselves,” she said.

Athletes Embrace Friendly Competition

While athletes are generally thought of as lithe and young, older adults at ASC are getting into the competitive spirit in a big way. While they may be in the late summer of their physical peak, participants in the Games agree: the best part of the Seniors Games is simply participating.

“It’s important to participate in the games,” says Marie, 89. “It’s a great way to get exercise, maintain your over all health, and it’s important to keep having fun and to be with people.”

In addition to being a seasoned Seniors Games athlete, Marie is setting records. After adding 3 Gold Medals to her winnings this year – Wii Bowling, Bean Bag Toss & Petanque Atout – Marie’s collection has now grown to 16 All Seniors Care Seniors Games medals! Other medals include outstanding performances in Bocce Ball, Card Games, Wii Golf, and Basketball Shoot. The medal she is most proud of is the 2015 National Gold for Bocce Ball.

Marie says it feels great to win so many medals. “I am still accomplishing things and it’s nice to have something to show for it,” she confided.

More importantly, Marie enters the competitive arena with a playful attitude. “It’s not about winning or losing,” she says. “You are there to enjoy the company of others, have fun with the friends you have made, and to cheer them on!”

A great-grandmother, Marie has attended every competition since moving to Preston Park in 2014 with her husband Al Slinkard, an Order of Canada recipient.

Marie with her medals

A Path to Lifelong Fitness

Realizing the importance of competition, fitness, and friendship to seniors, we pit resident against resident in our annual Seniors Games.  Now entering its 13th year, the ASC Senior Games has been motivating active adults to lead a healthy lifestyle through friendly competition since 2009.

But why competition? Not only is it a fun way to raise team spirit, turns out that competition holds significant benefits for older adults.

Health Benefits Associated with Competition

Whether you aim to realize your dreams on the podium or simply want to get more active, there are many different benefits to competitive playing. Participating in the Senior Games is a great way to improve your health and maintain lifelong fitness – and the best part is that the positive impact can be experienced right away.

Remember the 5 dimensions of wellness?  Wellness is a holistic integration of physical, emotional, cognitive, social, and spiritual wellbeing. And competition checks all the wellness boxes.

Encouraging Physical Activity Through Competition

There is a robust relationship between continued involvement in physical activity and maintenance of physical functioning. Also, strength, balance, and mobility are enhanced, meaning that active seniors experience fewer falls. After all, the stronger the joints are, the more stability you have.

Preparing for competitive activities have the added bonus of keeping participants motivated. After all, the more you hone your skills, the more likely you are to take home gold!

Social Benefits

By its very nature, taking part in competition involves other people. A friendly match, whether of body or wits, engenders fellowship and companionship. Along with a little good-natured ribbing and bragging rights, competitive activities make for great conversation among those who take part, and the shared experiences solidify friendships. These year’s theme was Love Letters and everyone enjoyed sharing their fond memories and hearing about new found friendships!

Cognitive Benefits

The effect of physical and mental exercise on cognition is undeniable, especially among older adults. Experts say that challenging the brain to do and learn new things encourages neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to form and reorganize synaptic connections. Every year, the Games include a competition of wits and educational presentations that get the cognitive juices flowing.

Emotional Benefits

At a time in life when things start to slow down, older adults benefit immensely from tangible proof that they can still work toward and accomplish goals. Self-confidence is boosted. Leadership skills, communication, and self-agency are enhanced. The fun that goes with it means lasting gains. When you engage in play with others, you share enjoyable moments together. This not only benefits you personally, but it creates lasting bonds with your family members, friends, and neighbors.

Spiritual Benefits

While spiritual benefits might not be as obvious, playing and competing with others helps you develop greater compassion and empathy, which positively benefits your mental health as well as your relationships with others. Taking part in the Games opens a world of possibility: you feel part of something bigger than yourself.  A community.

Lace up your silver sneakers – it’s never too late to go for Gold

After the Covid-19 pandemic cancelled last two senior Games, we are back stronger than ever. The 12th annual games were combined with Summer Camp this year as we got residents back into the competitive spirit. Everyone is looking forward to the 13th ASC Seniors Games in February 2023.

As many of the participating athletes pointed out this year it feels to win medals and backslaps and trophies, but healthy competition is ultimately about people having fun and reaping all the benefits, at any age.  When asked what advice she has for older adults who are thinking about joining the next competition, Anna K said, “DO IT! Don’t think and just do. It’s great for the mind body and soul.”

To learn more about senior living in Regina, retirement homes in Ottawa, or memory care in Hamilton, contact us today.

Writer  – Julianna McLeod

Julianna is a health and wellness expert at All Seniors Care. Her mission is to create content that empowers seniors to form sustainable solutions for lasting health and happiness. She is an experienced writer, editor, and Recreational Therapist living in Toronto.

 

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