Seniors enjoy friendly world competition

Story and photo by Jenna Cannon

A hush fills the cool air with the silence of intense concentration. Two hands, worn with age, seem to feel at home as they knowingly grasp the steel club. A deep exhale and the club swings, sending the golf ball soaring over the lush, green course. The intensity dissipates and a broad grin deepens the smile lines on the golfer’s face.

James Newton

James Newton practices his golf swing at the Salt Lake Country Club.

James Newton, a 68-year-old Utah athlete, has just experienced his favorite pastime. He plays golf at least once a week to perfect his swing and improve his putting. He is preparing to compete in an international senior sporting competition known as the Huntsman World Senior Games.

“It’s always a great experience. I love being able to play all day and just have fun,” Newton said. He has been competing in the games for five years. His sport of choice is golf.

The Huntsman World Senior Games began in 1987. It showcases 26 different sports. Kyle Case, CEO of the Huntsman World Senior Games, said the games currently host more than 9,500 athletes. These athletes come not only to compete, but also to socialize and learn about maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
The Senior Games are held each October in St. George, Utah. According to its Web site, the theme of the games is, “To foster worldwide health, friendship and peace.”

The health aspect is the sporting events and health clinics. Each sport caters to the skills and abilities of the athletes. Some of the sports can be played with a partner or team, such as bowling and basketball. Other sports are solo activities; these include the triathlon, swimming and archery.

In addition to physical sports, the Senior Games includes two mental sports. These allow seniors to exercise their minds. They use their mental skills by playing bridge or chess.

A popular sport among the senior women is tennis. Elouise Jensen, a 77-year-old Utah athlete, is an avid tennis player. Sporting a freshly styled blond bob and a contagious smile, Jensen excitedly talks about the Senior Games. She prides herself in her 11-year involvement in the games. She loves to go down to the games with her girlfriends to play tennis in the warm southern Utah weather.

“We just have so much fun!” she exclaimed.

Jensen feels that participating in sports keeps her young and healthy. This is apparent with her jaunty stroll and radiating healthy glow. She plays tennis with a group of friends twice a week. This keeps her active and prepared to participate in the Senior Games each year.

Newton also believes that staying active keeps an aging person healthy. When he golfs he likes to walk the course instead of renting a golf cart. He will play an entire round of 18 holes without ever sitting in a golf cart.

“All that walking keeps me young,” he said.

In addition to the athletic aspect of the event, the Senior Games promotes senior health by offering a health clinic and healthy lifestyle lectures. The clinic offers health testing for various diseases and ailments that afflict the elderly. Health-care professionals present the lectures and answer questions from the audience.

Promoting senior health is just one feature of the Senior Games. Another is to emulate worldwide friendship and peace. Athletes from 20 different countries attend the games, bringing with them a sense of worldwide unity.

“It’s unbelievable. We get players from far off places like Romania,” Jensen said.

The assembly of so many athletes in one location fosters friendship and encourages socialization. Newton thoroughly enjoys meeting new people at the games.

“It’s fun getting to know people. I stay in contact with many of the folks and I even e-mail a fellow I met from Australia,” he said.

The competitors are able to socialize in venues other than on the field. Various activities are made available to the athletes and visitors of the games. These activities include opening ceremonies, a western dinner-dance, an international festival and a talent show.

The Senior Games gives the elderly a unique opportunity filled with competition, activities and learning. A games regular, Charmaine Halversen, 84, enjoys the socialization and the athleticism that the games invoke.

“My favorite part is the association and the element of delight in seeing what older people can do,” she said.

%d bloggers like this: