A Message from the CEO
We hope that your family, friends, neighbors and community are fine, and know we are thinking of you and wishing you all stay well. Our staff is fine and currently working remotely and adjusting to the change in routine as we continue to conduct the business and planning for the 2021 National Senior Games presented by Humana in sunny Greater Fort Lauderdale next year.
In 2014, National Senior Games Association (NSGA) profiled tennis player and New Jersey Senior Olympics volunteer Irma DeMarzo as part of our Personal Best initiative. Side note congratulations Irma and her husband John celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary on April 11th. In her interview, Irma shared her feelings about the Senior Games:
“I love all of the activities and especially the camaraderie I find there. I get to meet so many wonderful people. They’re celebrating health and life. It’s an amazing thing to go back and still meet some of the same people I met way back before.”
I admit I am quoting a New Jersey athlete because I am a native of that state, but we have consistently heard this sentiment expressed by athletes. This is a big motivation for Games organizers to do the hard work to stage your state events. As we reach out to our senior games family across the country, we know you are anxious and yearning for normalcy, and we are too.
We are truly a family, and you can be certain that our entire association is focused on returning to competitions, reuniting with longtime friends, and making new friendships, and when the time is right we will be ready. Yes, we all want to know when that time is, yet at this moment it is unknown. Therefore, continue to take time to connect with family, friends, teammates, and fellow athletes.
We hope you remain safe and are finding ways to stay active during these challenging times. To help bridge the current situation for active seniors until training and practice can begin again, NSGA has created a web page with tips and links curated with senior fitness in mind. We feel you will find something helpful and appropriate for you. Click to visit the Alternative Home Exercises web page.
State Senior Games: Due to the evolving nature of COVID-19, many of our State Senior Games are actively evaluating their schedules. They will continue to monitor the conditions and make decisions on any postponements or cancellations. We realize that when a decision is made pertaining to postponing or cancelling some may agree and some may disagree. The State Senior Games are diligently reviewing and discussing the situation along with input from appropriate authorities. There are many facets to consider, thus decisions will be not be made lightly. Please support the decision. For the most current status of events, please CLICK HERE for NSGA State Information with individual Games links and downloadable contact list and master calendar.
National Senior Games: NSGA is already analyzing potential impacts on State Senior Games and the qualifying process for the National Senior Games in 2021. We are reviewing several potential scenarios and considering many factors. If the situation requires that changes are made to the current qualification process, NSGA will continue regular communications with our State Senior Games to share information to athletes.
Please be assured that our organization will find the right path forward once the situation eases and activities can proceed. Watch for updates from your state, and we will continue to inform you about the road ahead. Better days are coming!
Marc T. Riker, CEO
Personal Best: A Way of Life for 100 Years
Our newest Personal Best athlete feature celebrates centenarian Hollyce Kirkland, who grew up on a farm and has kept herself healthy and active for her entire life. Her story carries another important theme that comes from a non-competition fall she took at The Games last year. Showing her determination and good humor, the Tennessean had “a little pitty party” about having to miss her track events, but immediately focused on coming back for unfinished business in 2021.
Enjoy following along in our edited conversation with Hollyce to learn more about what she has done and learned in ten decades.
Welcome Back, Zibrio!
The NSGA is delighted to partner once again with Zibrio for the 2020 Qualifying Season and the 2021 National Senior Games presented by Humana, supporting athletes in bringing their best game to The Games, and to life.
Since you first met them in Albuquerque last year, ‘Flip Flop’, the Zibrio flamingo has been busy, including going to the Consumer Electronic Show in January where Zibrio won an Innovation Award in the Health & Wellness category from the Consumer Electronics Association.
CES is the world’s gathering place for consumer technologies, attracting over 175,000 people from all over the world, where innovators demonstrate advances in everything from health and fitness to smart homes, travel and robotics.
The Zibrio team demonstrated the next generation clinical and consumer versions of the balance scale. Before the week had finished, they also won the AARP competition for technology best able to help older adults ‘stay in the game’, hosted by football legend, Joe Montana.
Montana confessed he had taken his balance for granted before joining his wife in doing balance drills, when he realized how badly off his balance had become. “If you’re not testing it, how do you know if you have a problem?” he said. You can listen to the interview with him by CLICKING HERE
Top 3 reasons to measure your balance:
- Understand your personal fluctuation pattern, so you can tell if something is off
- Help you assess & tailor your training
- Understand which health factors most affect your balance
April Athlete of the Month
Meatless Meets: A Vegan Perspective
While only a fraction of senior athletes follow a vegan diet, there is a trend with more turning to this option. Traditional opinions by coaches and athletes say that you can’t perform as well athletically on a purely plant-based diet, but runner Ellen Jaffe Jones is out to disprove that thought. In fact, she says her own experience has already done that.
“After a 5K I ran in Florida in 2011, I was on the podium holding a trophy and wearing a bright neon yellow shirt with the cover of my book Eat Vegan on $4 a Day on it,” she recalls. “This guy tells me, ‘You can’t run on a vegan diet, and you certainly can’t race on a vegan diet.’ At that point, I had been running for 30 years and answered, ‘Let’s have that conversation.’”
Ellen leads a lot of conversations on the subject. Her early career as a television news investigative and consumer reporter provided the communication skills to become a speaker, author of six books, and host of an active website and social media pages about vegan diet and lifestyle. “There’s a perception that vegans are weak and all they eat is spinach and broccoli with no variety,” she says. “That couldn’t be farther from the truth.”
She began to shy away from meat protein after college when she gained weight while touring as a cast member of Up With People. “I was 150 pounds on a five-foot-three frame – not pretty or comfortable,” she recalls. “I did all the high protein diets – Atkins, South Beach, Zone Diet. After I almost died from a colon blockage when I was 28, I ran to the bookstore and read everything on fiber, and when I focused on fiber over protein the weight came off.”
Ellen’s family history was reason enough to evaluate diet. “I’ve watched my mom and both sisters get breast cancer, and my aunt died from it at an early age,” she says solemnly. “One of my sisters got diabetes and eventually died from heart disease. All my life has been focused on how to avoid this mayhem. We’ve been sold a bill of goods with ad campaigns for meat and dairy that promote misconceptions not based on science. There’s a lot of research now linking dairy to breast cancer, for example.”
Fitness running became a part of her life 40 years ago. In recent years she added track competition, making it to Nationals three times. She reports always being a “middle-of-the-packer” but that her performances have improved over time. She is proud to have secured 1500-meter gold in her Florida Senior Games qualifier, and to be on the women’s 65-69 4×100 winning relay team at The Games in Albuquerque last year. She was also one of only two women of 66 athletes in her age group to run all six track events plus the relay. “I recently placed my 199th 5K or longer race since 2006 just on plants,” she notes. “I’m now running a 27-minute 5K, and I never ran that fast. Many of the women who used to beat me like crazy 15 years ago aren’t even running anymore.”
Ellen adds a big reason she entered athletics was to share that vegans largely do not get arthritis. “Animal protein lodges in the joints,” she says. “Arthritis specialists and organizations are now saying to cut down or eliminate animal protein to cut down on symptoms of osteoarthritis. And that includes dairy.”
Her bottom line is that people should research and make up their own mind about diet. “There’s no money in broccoli. There’s no broccoli association or lobby, and that’s why we haven’t heard the good news about it and its sisters and brothers,” she explains. “When you understand that, you have to be your own investigative reporter to figure out the truth about food.”
Got a great story to share about yourself or an athlete you admire? We want to hear from you! To submit yours, or to nominate a fellow athlete, Please Click Here.
Senior Health and Wellness
Embrace the Change
Here are some thoughts and advice from NSGA Health and Wellness Director Andrew Walker:
A wise mentor and colleague from my ATT employee wellness experience regularly reminded me that one constant in life is change! COVID-19 is an example of rapid and challenging change, requiring us to harness our ability to manage change.
Interruption in our routines calls us to embrace change. We are empowered to make the needed modifications once we know what needs to change. For the common good, and for our own sake, we are asked to maintain a physical distance perimeter of six feet, limit the unconscious habit of face touching, and commit to washing hands for at least twenty seconds. In addition, social networks and exercise programs are disrupted. When taken together they represent a challenge, requiring change and creating stress. Yet, there are resources that we can call upon.
Managing change requires acceptance of what you cannot control, a review of your assets, and then acting on those things you can control. Reflect on this advice:
- Work to accept that change is required
- Give yourself time to change
- Make a list of things that you can control and things you can’t control
- Acknowledge that you survived previous changes
- Reflect on how you survived previous changes
- Review your strengths, resources, and support
Change What You Can Control
- Focus on the things you can control
- Work to let go of things you cannot control
- Reframe this moment as an opportunity to refine your mindset, try new workout routines and maintain social networks
Overall wellness encompasses dimensions of mind, body, spirit, and social life, with each having an impact on the other. For instance, there is an abundance of evidence that physical activity positively affects mental wellbeing. A complete overview of proven mind-body practices like tai chi for health and yoga is found at The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). NCCIH also offers a comprehensive overview of Relaxation Techniques for Health.
NSGA has created the Alternative Home Exercises web page with curated workout resources. Additional resources to support mental wellbeing created by the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) are found at COVID-19 Information and Resources.
We know from Senior Athlete Fitness Exam (SAFE) research that Senior Games participants are, as a whole, exceptionally healthy and fit. Your participation in The Games has demonstrated your grit and resilience. Life experience has sharpened your ability to accept what you cannot change. Your Games experience has affirmed your strength to change while opening space for greater serenity in hard times.
Keep the faith, taking care in mind, body and spirit.
NSGA Health & Wellness Partners
NSGA Sport Partners