BY JEFF FALK
Being active is an important part of staying healthy and remaining happy. And there’s nothing like a little friendly competition for being active, both physically and mentally.
That’s really what the Lebanon County Senior Games are all about. Celebrating life, competition and comraderie.
The Lebanon County Senior Games are a week-long, olympic-style festival of 14 sports/games, conducted at six different venues in the county – the Lebanon Valley Family YMCA, the Senior Center of Lebanon Valley, Cedar Lanes, Blue Mountain View Golf Course, Coleman Memorial Park and Lions Lake in North Lebanon township. It is designed for Lebanon County residents ages 50 and older, and trophies are awarded in every event, in different age categories.
The 27th annual edition of the Lebanon County Senior Games wrapped up on Tuesday at the Senior Center on north Seventh Street in the city. The games were a joint effort between the Lebanon Valley Family YMCA and the Lebanon County Area Agency on the Aging.
“I’d just say it’s good to be active if you want to stay healthy,” said Bernard Webber, a 74-year-old resident of Swatara Township. “It’s important. You’ve got to stay active. You can’t sit at home and watch TV all the time.”
“Being active helps you stay healthy, that and be careful what you eat,” said Alma Shank, 82 and a resident of the Lebanon Valley Brethren Home in Annville. “I’ve always been active. My husband and I lived on a chicken farm, and taking care of chickens keeps you busy. I’ve been active through my life.”
“It’s an opportunity for seniors to meet new seniors,” said Mark Hubbard, who helps run the event through his position as the YMCA’s Wellness Director. “But it also allows them to get involved in some events, participate, enjoy each other’s comapany and to compete in sports. As people get older they might no do as much because they think they can’t do as much.”
The emphasis is more on participation, rather than competition. The event also celebrates some less popular -but just as intriguing – sports, like billiards, bocce ball, shuffleboard, badminton, table tennis, pinochle, bingo, basketball foul shooting, softball throwing, walking, swimming, bowling and golf.
“We get some competitive people here,” said Hubbard. “That’s the good thing about the senior games. You can take it like you want to. But it’s hard to take miniature golf too seriously.”
“I’d like to be more competitive,” said Webber, who competed in billiards, foul shooting, the softball throw, table tennis and walking. “But it doesn’t always happen. Some people are more competitive than others.”
“How do I do? I’m happy,” said Shank, who participated in shuffleboard, foul shooting and the softball throw. “I have my ups and downs. Doesn’t everybody?
“I play for the fun of it,” continued Shank. “You make a lot of friends. Through the years you meet a lot of good people. If you lose, so what.”
And if Shank, who’s been part of the senior games since their inception, approaches you about the possiblity of a little badminton match, just turn and walk away.
“I play badminton regularly, and sometimes when I’m getting a drink of water in the hall I’ll see the guys come out of the weight-lifting room,” said Shank. “I’ll ask them if they want to play badminton. Most of the times they say no. But one day this guy said yes. I asked him, “How do you want me to play? A lot of mercy? Some mercy? Or no mercy?’ I played him and beat him. And when he said he wanted another game, I was so happy. Then he almost beat me.”
This year, 140 Lebanon County residents competed in the Senior Games, one as old as 96. There have been years when the number of competitors has approached 200.
“That’s good,” said Hubbard of the event’s participation rate. “That’s (140) better than the last few years. And years ago they had hundreds. But you always want more.”
“I used to encourage people to play,” said Shank, “but I gave it up. I don’t do it any more because I get too disappointed. They aren’t interested.”
“I always enjoyed being active and doing things,” said Webber. “I used to be a marathon runner and a cross country skier. I pedalled my bike from Los Angeles to Boston. Being active is very important. I always kept my weight in line. That’s due to physical activity and dieting.”
This year marks the last year the Area Agency on the Aging will be involved with the Lebanon County Senior Games. Next year the Lebanon Valley Family YMCA will take full ownership of the event.
“It’s just another good community program for the Y to get involved in,” said Hubbard. “It might have been something like the Senior Games would’ve folded if the Y hadn’t taken it over. And we have a lot of seniors at the Y anyways.”