For senior citizens living at Emerald Heights, staying in shape has never been so much fun.
Most of the retirement community’s 400-plus residents have been working out regularly with fitness trainers in an assortment of classes to prepare for the annual Senior Fitness Games, a week-long event with different competitions scheduled each day.
The games kicked off on Monday in a lavish opening ceremony at Redmond High School’s football stadium. At the opening ceremonies, the seniors paraded onto the field and gathered around an American flag. After Senior Fitness Coach Ron “Tiger” Cole presented the deserving athletes with awards for distance walking in the months leading up to the games, he joined three senior athletes in singing the national anthem.
The day’s events included speed walking competitions in four different age divisions: 65-72, 72-79, 80-89 and 90-plus, as well as a challenging softball distance throw in which athletes had to keep the ball inside a horizontal boundary while pitching it underhanded as far as possible downfield.
Tuesday and Wednesday’s Fitness Games included competitions on the Nintendo Wii such as bowling and cow races, as well as a “Golden Putter” contest held on Emerald Heights’ putting green.
Other events held later in the week included lawn bowling, pool walking and a free-throw competition.
MIND, BODY AND SPIRIT
No matter how old or young, the seniors participating in the games look forward to this time of year when they can get together for some exercise and friendly competition.
“The idea is to get everybody in the community involved either as a participant or as a spectator,” said Bob Levin, the games’ chairman and silver medalist in the 50-meter speed walk event in his age division. “While we have it be competitive, the idea is really to get out there and have fun. As part of the fitness and wellness program, it encourages people to exercise on a regular basis — that’s the main emphasis.”
Emerald Heights has plenty to offer those in their golden years as far as getting and staying in shape.
Aerobics classes, balance classes, a full gym with weight resistance training, treadmills and elliptical bikes, and for the more adventurous there’s even tai-chi and line dancing classes. Most popular as of late has been the introduction of the Wii games.
“They’re lots of fun and we’re even forming some leagues for (Wii) bowling, tennis and golf,” said Levin.
At the end of the day, however, the directors at Emerald Heights know how important it is for all senior citizens to stay fit and maintain a healthy, active lifestyle.
“To really go with the wellness thought process it’s about mind, body and spirit,” said Sue Bankoff, Wellness Program Director at Emerald Heights. “It’s not just being physically fit, it’s being mentally fit as well. It’s your nutrition, your socialization, just getting out there and getting after it.”
Bankoff also added that medical statistics have shown that seniors get more back for being fit than younger adults, as they’re able to control their blood pressure, blood sugars and significantly improve their overall health.
FORTY TO 400 in FOUR YEARS
The games started four years ago by the Emerald Heights Wellness Program as the “Senior Olympics,” as a small gathering of 20-50 residents looking for some friendly competition, but has expanded in size and stature since.
“Each year it’s grown … now throughout the week-long Senior Fit Games we have several hundred residents that are scheduled to participate,” said Bankoff. “It’s not just the fitness part, we also have swimming meets, there’s basketball, mind fitness games, so we really encompass ‘wellness’ as a whole.”
The 2008 event is of special significance because this is the first year that the any part of the games have taken place outside of the Emerald Heights community, with both Monday and Friday’s events taking place at Redmond High School’s track.
According to one particularly energetic member of the Emerald Heights staff, however, this is just the beginning of a much larger dream.
“My goal is to make this the Senior Fitness State Games,” said Ron “Tiger” Cole, a senior fitness coach at Emerald Heights who also served as emcee for the event. “This is a great stadium for the state games. We will have a long jump, all the real games, 100-yard runs … but right now this is just a good start.”