Retirement doesn’t necessarily mean life slows down. In fact, for many seniors, it’s the busiest season of their lives.
Busy in a good way, according to senior Marianne Hamilton.
The almost-70-year-old never imagined that in her twilight years she’d be as active as she is, volunteering and competing and socializing.
“I am so busy! I am happy, healthy, and fit,” she says.
A big part of that, Hamilton explains, is the Huntsman World Senior Games. The annual event is like the Olympics but for the 50+ crowd.
In fact, the Huntsman World Senior Games—this year taking place October 3 through 15—is the largest annual multi-sport event in the world for athletes over the age of 50. Located in St. George, Utah, it offers 34 different sports (swimming, basketball, soccer, pickleball, archery, bowling, and horseshoes, to name a few) and welcomes over 11,000 athletes from all over the world each year.
Hamilton first competed in the Games 12 years ago. At the time, she and her husband Doug were living in California. She had competed as a race walker in the Bay Area, but decided to give the Games in St George a try.
“It was an excuse to take a vacation,” she says. They were still working a lot then, and getting out of the rat race was appealing.
What greeted them in St. George was endless sunshine, beautiful red rocks, a vibrant arts community, a host of other seniors actively staying fit, and the Games. You can bet Hamilton and her husband were immediately hooked. They returned the next year. Then the next.
“By our third year we said, ‘Let’s just move here.’” So they did. And they’ve never looked back.
Thirty-five years ago, Daisy and John H. Morgan, Jr. wondered: how can we create an impact in the St. George community? Their answer was the World Senior Games. The retirement area was already full of vibrant, active seniors. It just made sense to celebrate them as they enjoyed their golden years.
About 300 people from around the world participated that first year. Two years later, in 1989, the Huntsman Foundation became its title sponsor, thus the name change.
In the years since, it’s grown tremendously. The Morgans’ vision of seniors adopting a fitness-focused lifestyle has flourished.
What they probably didn’t fully anticipate, however, has been the camaraderie between competitors.
“We’ve developed so many friendships,” Hamilton says. “When we get together, it’s like no time has passed. These are people in their 60s, 70s, 80s and older who are still active. You don’t have to stop being active.”
On the starting line of a race, or before heading to the court for a team sport, competitors certainly have a goal of winning. But it doesn’t mean they don’t also cheer for the other seniors who have spent all year training and pushing themselves just as hard.
“We cheer for them all,” Hamilton says. “At the starting line, we help each other with race bibs. We give back rubs.”
As the competitors age, it’s not like they’ll get faster. Many have already hit their personal records. But that’s not the point of the Games, anyway.
Fostering Healthy Lifestyles
One big goal of the Games has always been to promote healthy living for those 50+. While typically as people age they tend to slow down and put fitness on the back burner, the Games proves that they don’t have to.
“The Huntsman World Senior Games gives athletes the motivation, the reason to get up and workout,” explains Kyle M Case, CEO of the event. “Then they also focus on eating healthy. It’s a lifestyle. I love being a part of that.”
Physical health is paramount with the Games. Aside from the athletic events, attendees can participate in life-saving health screenings, including for breast and prostate cancers, as well as serious health threats like glaucoma, diabetes, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, and decreased bone density. The proactive focus, Case hopes, will keep many seniors healthier longer.
Part of an overall healthy person is emotional well-being, Case adds. He cites a study from Brigham Young University that states that loneliness and isolation are just as much of a threat to living a long, healthy life as obesity.
The Games certainly brings people together every October, but it does more than that, he points out. As seniors train throughout the year, they spend more time together in groups toward their common goal. Those who are on a team together practice often, which means they are less isolated and lonely all year long.
“The Games provides a total package of health and wellness,” Case says.
Many of the athletes also offer service hours to help with the Games. An impressive 3,000 seniors volunteer for the Games, including Hamilton. She’s the Race Co-Director, Race Walks/Power Walks, and her husband Doug is an assistant.
“I highly recommend seniors volunteer,” Hamilton says. “It feeds my soul. It’s rewarding to be of service.” Specifically, she adds, being of service to an event that feeds so many others in their quest to live their best lives, no matter how old.
There are even a few 100-year-olds and older who participate in the Games.
“Don’t ever think that the best years are behind you,” Hamilton says. “Life just keeps getting better.”
To learn more, visit seniorgames.net.
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