Experts have long been touting the benefits of physical activity for older adults. Yet there are many other considerations that support healthy aging.
Social interaction is often overlooked. Many studies have shown that social connectivity can be just as important as physical activity. Staying connected through volunteering or participating in sporting or community events can have so many positive benefits.
Seniors who are active socially reduce their risk of many different chronic diseases as well as mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
Social activities and relationships can also provide a sense of purpose, a reason to leave the house and are a source of enjoyment and entertainment, which all in turn can promote physical activity – it’s truly a win-win situation.
Entering its 33rd year, the Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries 55+ Games – a program of the Active Living Coalition for Older Adults in Manitoba (ALCOA-MB), is a great example of a community based social event.
The 55+ Games have long been a staple in many households across the province and come mid-June, over the course of three days – June 16 – 18, 2015 in Beasejour, 1000+ participants ages 55-90+ will gather together and celebrate being active and young at heart.
Each year there are over 20 events that athletes can choose from, including a special demonstration event unique to each community.
Don’t be fooled either, the Games are not just for ‘athletes’, they are a wonderful opportunity for people from all walks of life and of all abilities to come together and just have an all-around great time.
There are also official opening and closing ceremonies, complete with a parade of athletes, as well as fun filled banquet followed by a good old fashioned dance, traditionally held on the Wednesday night.
The 55+ Games also strive to eliminate many different boundaries, including those which are social, physical and geographical in nature. Everyone is welcome and encouraged to find their ‘Games niche’ and are impressed upon to try something new. Registration costs are even reduced for subsequent events to help people experience as many different events as possible.
Participants are also grouped accordingly by age, so as to encourage fair and equal participation at all levels.
Geographically speaking, participants and spectators alike come to the Games from all over the province. Even the furthest reaches of Manitoba are home to Games enthusiasts.
So many lasting friendships have been cultivated at the 55+ Games, blossoming over the years and to this very day, these same groups meet up annually wherever the event takes them that year. It doesn’t matter if they only connect once a year, they make the most of the three days they have together.
Last year in Neepawa, Manitoba, as an ‘ALCOA rookie’ I experienced my very first 55+ Games. The weather was gray and dreary but the atmosphere was anything but.
The town was abuzz with such a wonderful, positive energy and there were smiling faces everywhere you looked. Even the town locals come out in full force both to promote and to experience the Games.
In fact, each year the host communities go out of their way to welcome participants and their families with friendly, open arms, even going as far as inviting them into their homes as ‘billets’ over the three days.
Local events, historical gems and home-town businesses are also showcased over the duration of the games, leading one to truly experience and enjoy each new Games locale. With this year’s event being held in Beausejour, MB, one can only expect similar kinds of hospitality and good fun.
There are even affordable group transportation options available, leaving from the city, for both participants and spectators simply wanting see what the Games are all about.
The location and events may differ from year to year, but the participant based focus still remains unchanged. Whether you are ‘in it to win it’, an avid runner, buoyant swimmer, Scrabble word-smith, artiste extraordinaire, cunning card player, bowling enthusiast, loyal spectator or tireless volunteer – the Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries 55+ Games truly has something for everyone.
Events such as this provide so many opportunities for older adults and offer annual proof of just how important it is to stay active, get involved and maintain social lives as one ages – truly redefining the importance of a little good old fashioned ‘healthy competition’.