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Senior Scene Ocean State Senior Olympics

By Paul V. Palange

There’s nothing quite like “the thrill of victory.” It’s an awesome feeling whether the elation is the result of an athletic, occupational or personal accomplishment.

Older adults shouldn’t think it’s too late in their lives to “go for the gold” and experience a little euphoria after winning or placing in a sporting event. That’s one reason why people age 50 and older might want to enter the Ocean State Senior Olympics.

The Senior Olympics is in its 40th year and while the 2018 games are under way, there’s still plenty of time to participate. Organizers have yet to hold the softball, pickle ball, triathlon, table tennis, golf, volleyball and tennis events.

Soon after the state Department of Elderly Affairs (DEA) was established in 1977 under the direction of the General Assembly and then-Gov. J. Joseph Garrahy, DEA Director Anna Tucker and her staff focused on reaching seniors and creating a breadth of activities that would get them up, out and moving. Upon the suggestion of Dolores Casey Bergeron, the state established the Senior Olympics. Dolores served as the coordinator of the games for many years, and she still serves on the board of directors, according to Mike Lyons, the current executive director of the games.

Before taking on that role, the 75-year-old Lyons, who continues to play softball and tennis, helped out Bergeron for a long time, “I just fell in love with the seniors. They are really cool people,” said the former television sportscaster who now works for the Pawtucket Red Sox. “Your jaw just drops when you watch some of these athletes.”

He explained the Senior Olympics is aimed at initiating a healthy lifestyle for men and women age 50 and beyond through peer competition and recognition of achievement. The events are intended to enhance the physical and mental well-being of the participants and foster friendships and an increased sense of belonging.

“We have the serious competitors, and we have the participants who are out there just for fun,” Lyons said.

People who turned 50 by Dec. 31, 2016, are eligible to enter the games and compete for gold, silver and bronze medals. Competitions are held according to age groups of five-year increments such as 50 to 54, 55 to 59, 60 to 64 and 65 to 69. In addition, master athletes 40 years of age or older can compete in some events and out-of-state residents are encouraged to participate in the Ocean State Senior Olympics.

Lyons is sure participation in the games will increase as “the graying of society” accelerates, and he urges people 50 and older “to get out there and move around” regardless of the level of their athletic ability.

Participants in this year’s state competition can qualify for the next round of the National Senior Games, which are conducted every other year and are scheduled for June 14 and 15, 2019, in Albuquerque, N.M.

According to the National Senior Games Association (NSGA) website, athletes in most sports can qualify for the nationals by placing in one of the top four spots of their age division at an NSGA sanctioned state competition. There are some sports for which an athlete can also qualify by meeting a minimum performance standard. More information is available at nsga.com.

Upcoming events on the state level are softball from Aug. 11 to 16 at City Park in Warwick; pickle ball on Sept. 15 and 16 at Lime Acres, 133 Jenckes Hill Road, Lincoln; table tennis, Sept. 30 in Manville; triathlon on Sept. 23 at the Westerly YMCA; and golf on Oct. 10 at Trigg Memorial in Providence. The dates for the tennis competition at Roger Williams Park in Providence are to be determined, and the dates and location for volleyball are to be determined. For details such as times and entry fees and the pending information, go online to riseniorolympics.org.

The mailing address for the Ocean State Senior Olympics is PO Box 16193, Rumford, R.I., 02916. Lyons can be contacted at (401) 301-2041 or mlyons7@hotmail.com.