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Senior games have a motto: Fitness for the Fun of It

by Nancy Hamlett

With a motto of “Fitness for the Fun of It,” the Douglas County Northern Nevada Senior Games board is hosting the second year of Olympic style competition.

As The Record-Courier’s organization of the month, the senior games, a non-profit volunteer organization, promotes fitness, friendship and fun for senior athletes.

Kathy Maidlow, one of the organization’s board members, brought the concept for the games to the Carson Valley after attending a national meeting for senior center directors.

“I saw a man wearing a T-shirt for senior games and asked him about it,” said Maidlow. “Then I thought, we have an active senior center. This would be great for us.”

Designed to provide an athletic opportunity for people 49 years and older, the senior games is part of a growing trend toward fitness and fun. Many states now have games, and a national competition is held every other year.

Northern Nevada Games held its first competition in 1998, a qualifying year for the nationals. Maidlow said that because there isn’t a national competition this year she expected fewer entries.

“Boy was I surprised. We already have 101 entrants compared to 81 last year,” said Maidlow. “We have people coming from Boise, Phoenix, all points in California as well as Las Vegas and Oregon.”

Maidlow, who is the Douglas County Senior Services supervisor, is joined on the board by Scott Morgan, the county’s Parks and Recreations director, Warren Bottino, recreation supervisor, and Greg Hubbard, a deputy sheriff who specializes in issues concerning seniors. But according to Maidlow, the backbone of the organization is the volunteers.

“Nineteen people chair the events, one chairman for each event. And they are in charge of recruiting more volunteers to help with their particular event,” Maidlow said.

All totaled, Maidlow estimates that between 30 and 40 people step up to help the chairpeople.

“The community support is wonderful,” said Maidlow. “We have everyone from teens to other seniors volunteering to help with the games.”

After the first Senior Games, board members and key volunteers met to discuss what went right and what could be improved for this year’s competition. They started holding meetings in November for the 1999 senior games.

“It takes a lot of time to put this together,” said Maidlow. “Last year, we really didn’t know how to do anything. It’s easier this year, and I expect that it will get better and better and easier and easier as we go on.”

Just as the entrants have grown this year, so has the number of events. New to the second annual games are basketball skills, decathlon, weight lifting and discus. Racquetball and handball were eliminated due to lack of participation.

“I entered the shot put last year, so of course I signed up for the discus,” said Maidlow. “This is fun. There is no other way to describe it.”

As a matter of fact, having fun is one of the goals of the senior games. Maidlow quoted from the organization’s booklet: “The (the games) are a great way to meet new friends, have fun with athletes your own age and to be a part of a wonderful organization of people.”

Although the organization is made up of volunteers, sponsors are needed to help defray the costs of T-shirts, medals and equipment and to cover the rental fees of the facilities. Many corporations, business and medical groups have stepped up to ensure that the cost of putting on the senior games is covered.

Diamond sponsors are Senior Spectrum, TCI Cablevision, Sierra Place Assisted Living and Del Mar Senior Games. Silver sponsor is Barton Memorial Hospital/Carson Valley Medical Center, and bronze sponsors are Carson Valley Eldercare Coalition, Sierra Pacific Power, Smith’s Food and Drug, Woman to Woman, Douglas Disposal, Western Nevada Supply, Minden Emergency/Urgent Care, Greater Genoa Business Association and Physiotherapy Associates.

The Douglas County Northern Nevada Senior Games will run from May 7-15 at various locations in Douglas County and Carson City with opening ceremonies on May 7 from 6-7 p.m. at the senior center, 2300 Meadow Lane in Gardnerville. Maidlow hopes that even if you aren’t an entrant, you will come out to cheer on the seniors.

“Just because we are seniors doesn’t mean that it isn’t stiff competition,” said Maidlow. “I think spectators will enjoy it as much as the participants.”