Residents are urged to participate in Senior Olympics

Kayakers get ready to put into the Huron River at HuRoc Park as part of the paddle and pedal completion in the 2018 Downriver Senior Olympics.

Residents of Grosse Ile, Allen Park, Brownstown, Ecorse, Flat Rock, Gibraltar, Huron Township, Lincoln Park, Melvindale, River Rouge, Riverview, Rockwood, Romulus, Southgate, Taylor, Trenton, Woodhaven or Wyandotte age 50 years and older soon will get a chance to bring home the gold.

Southgate will host the 2019 Downriver Senior Olympics from July 22 through 26.

 “The Senior Olympics are a fantastic way for all our seniors Downriver to have fun,” Southgate Mayor Joseph Kuspa said. “People in all the communities really enjoy it. We hadn’t hosted it since 2000, and every community has done its part over the years, so it was time for us to do it again.”

Southgate Parks and Recreation Director Julie Goddard said the city is looking forward to its third turn as host of the event, which is expected to draw nearly 500 participants from the region.

“By hosting it here, we hope to get more seniors involved so that they can become more active in programs in our own community,” she said. 

 “As the host city, we line up sponsors, set up registration and edit forms, among other things,” Goddard says. “We’re working with local schools for the opening ceremony and several events; we also supply equipment and banners. It’s a lot of work, but it’s fun work, and this year allows us to partner with a local business, Crystal Gardens and our own municipal golf course.”

Organizers say the annual event is a chance for seniors to get moving and socialize. And while you don’t have to be able shoot a round of golf like Tiger Woods, bake like Betty Crocker, play cards like a shark or swim like a fish to take part, be advised that some participants take their fun a little seriously.

But that’s a good thing, says Amy Thomas, Brownstown Township’s assistant director of parks and recreation and Downriver Senior Olympics board secretary.

“There are groups in a couple of communities that train year round for running,” she said, “and a group from Southgate is walking faster and faster each year. Training for throwing-related events is more individual, but some people will start throwing around a football or softball with their grandkids a few weeks before.

“Card games – euchre, pinochle and bridge – are much more social, but we award three medals per age bracket, and participants do want to win.”

Many card players retain the friendships they make after the event is over.

“It’s awesome,” Thomas said, “because they talk during the games and make arrangements to play and practice for the next year.

“Some Olympics participants have told us it’s a reason to get out of bed in morning. It’s a way to be social and have fun, which is important to seniors’ mental and physical well-being. We also try to keep things fresh, and switch things up from year to year as people tell us they want new events. We try to have something to do for everybody.”

Downriver’s Senior Olympics, started by officials from Lincoln Park, Southgate, Wyandotte and Trenton is now in its 34th year, and the number of events and participants have increased along with its popularity. At last year’s games, hosted by Flat Rock, 270 gold, 210 silver and 159 bronze medals were awarded.

This year’s games start at 7 a.m. Monday, July 22, with the Breakfast of Champions at Southgate Anderson High School and end with the Unity Awards Banquet at noon Friday, July 26, at Crystal Gardens, 16703 Fort St. in Southgate. The breakfast is free; banquet tickets are $16 per person and must be purchased in advance.

In between are events that include a baking contest; softball and football throws; euchre; tennis; billiards; darts; a car show; golf; hockey shootout; ballroom dancing; paddle and pedal; and bowling.

Team events include bridge, golf and dance; partners in those must be listed and registered individually. All other events will be a blind draw on site. For a full list of events, go to www.downriverseniorolympics.org/.

The Unity Banquet, which is open to all Olympics participants and adult guests, caps off the festivities with a fitting celebration.

“It’s phenomenal to see officials from all these communities come together, and the seniors from these communities come together,” Kuspa said. The Unity Banquet really exemplifies that we’re all just a big family Downriver.”

“It will be a full banquet meal,” Goddard said. “We’ll announce the numbers of medals that each community wins. Mayors, state reps and city officials will all be in attendance at this great event. We also will pass on the banner to Brownstown, the 2020 host community.”

Registration forms and event payment forms must be completed and submitted to residents’ local senior center or postmarked by June 30. Residents in communities without a senior center should call Southgate at (734) 258-3066.

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