In the world of athletic competition, the emphasis is typically on salaries and sponsorship deals surrounding athletes in their “prime.” For the National Senior Games, which will begin this week in Fort Lauderdale, FL, the focus is a little different.

This year’s games — the first to be held in person since 2019 — will feature nearly 12,000 athletes aged 50 years and over who will compete in 21 medal sports ranging from triathlon to shuffleboard. Athletes must meet minimum performance standards in order to compete. The oldest athlete this year is 103-year-old golfer Lindsay Tise from Winston-Salem, North Carolina. 

“The individuals participating in this year’s National Senior Games are outstanding athletes who can serve as examples to people of all ages of the physical, mental and social benefits of being fit and active,” said William Shrank, M.D., chief medical officer of Humana, which has served as the presenting sponsor of the games since 2007.

But the games are not just about athletic competition, NSGA CEO Marc T. Riker noted. 

“Senior athletes are not just going for medals, they are also gaining the benefits of social interaction and having goals to motivate them to keep moving,” he said. “It’s a lifelong journey that can begin for anyone, at any skill level, at any age. Even if people don’t ‘get into The Games’ we hope our examples inspire all aging adults to remain active for life.”

Just get started

National Senior Games athlete Ellen Jaffe Jones.

One athlete competing at this year’s games who exemplifies what it means to age well is senior athlete, author and Emmy winner Ellen Jaffe Jones, 70. Sponsored by GetSetUp, an online learning platform for older adults, Jaffe Jones will be competing in 7 races at this year’s games. 

As someone who hated running as a child, Jaffe Jones decided to give it another try as an adult in an effort to keep a lifelong problem with obesity under control. She has competed and placed nationally in multiple events at previous National Senior Games and she’s even run 2 marathons and 12 half-marathons since 2011.

“Ellen is the perfect example of someone who is taking action to ensure she continues to be healthy and can take part in all the things she still wants to experience,” said Mollie Carter, vice president of marketing and community at GetSetUp. Jaffe Jones shares her knowledge of fitness and healthy eating as an instructor and guest speaker for several classes on the GetSetUp platform. 

Make it a habit

One of Jaffe Jones’ favorite parts about running is that it helps her relieve stress, she told McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse. She also encouraged other seniors to take steps to make exercise something they incorporate into their daily lives.

“It really doesn’t take long for your muscle to atrophy,” Jaffe Jones said. “A study done on college kids who volunteered to lie in bed almost motionless showed that they began to lose muscle mass after just two days.”

She suggested that seniors pick a goal — any goal — to help them start exercising more regularly.

“Maybe it’s to have enough energy to do something with a child or grandchild,” she said. Then, sign up for a race, she added, even if you end up walking most of it. Joining a running club or finding a running or walking buddy, either in person or online can also help seniors stay accountable. In the end, however, it’s mostly about just taking the first step.

Editor’s note: Home Sweet Home is a feature appearing Mondays in McKnight’s Home Care Daily Pulse. The story focuses on a heartwarming, entertaining or quirky happening affecting the world of home care. If you have a topic that might be worthy of the spotlight in Home Sweet Home, please email Liza Berger at [email protected].