There’s a lot of science to what makes local residents 55 and older compete to be the best athletes in town and around the state, which is why Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) gerontology students have volunteered for the Piedmont Plus Senior Games April 12-20.
The 40 students will assist with corn hole, horseshoes, men’s and women’s bocce during the Piedmont Plus Senior Games being hosted by the City of Winston-Salem at the Miller Park Recreation Center, located at 400 Leisure Lane in Winston-Salem. While volunteering is a community service project, the experience will also provide a major learning opportunity, according to Dr. Deborah Farmer, WSSU assistant professor of behavioral sciences and social work.
“As gerontology majors, the students learn a lot about diseases, ailments and other negative aspects to aging,” said Farmer. “Now they can learn about social, psychological and physical benefits of getting exercise as well as the positive aspects of getting older.”
For those who want to study seniors and aging, the senior games are a good place to be. More than 500 seniors from five counties are expected to participate this year in Winston-Salem, competing in nearly 25 sports and SilverArts which includes visual art, literary art, heritage art and performing art.
And that competition can be tough, according to Farmer.
“In the past, we’ve seen a 97 year-old man who competes locally in corn hole and horseshoes who could likely outplay many near his age. This is a great opportunity for our students since gerontology is one of the fastest growing professions. With Baby Boomers retiring, the field will grow even more, and this population is wide open in range of fitness and diverse needs,” Farmer said.
The goal of the Senior Games is to promote healthy lifestyles, wellness and quality of life for seniors. Local seniors compete to advance to the state level to compete this fall and then, if they qualify on to the 2013 National Senior Games to be held in Cleveland, OH in July.
According to Chuck Vestal, Winston-Salem Recreation and Parks adult recreation program supervisor and Piedmont Plus Senior Games coordinator, for a number of these seniors, the social aspect of meeting with new people and enjoying things in common outweighs the competition most of the time.
“Several competitors have waived the right to their medals, saying they are there for the fun and camaraderie and the medals aren’t important.”
The National Senior Games Association (NSGA), the umbrella to the states, is a non-profit member of the United States Olympic Committee. NSGA supports and sanctions state organizations so that adults can participate in their state in events year-round that will keep them motivated to achieve greater value and quality in their lives by staying healthy, active and fit.
NSGA also works with state and federal agencies, colleges and universities to better understand and support healthy aging initiatives for seniors, which is a big lesson for Farmer’s students and a benefit for seniors of the future.
Editors: the student volunteer schedule is below:
Corn Hole April 13th, 1 – 6 p.m. Miller Park Recreation Center, 400 Leisure Lane.
Horseshoes April 17th, 2:30-6 p.m. Miller Park, Queen Street
Men’s Bocce April 19th, 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Miller Park, Queen Street
Women’s Bocce April 20th, 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Miller Park, Queen Street