Year End Message from CEO Marc T. Riker
On behalf of myself and the NSGA staff, we extend sincere holiday greetings to everyone involved in the Senior Games Movement, first and foremost to our amazing athletes and the support from their spouses, partners, family members and friends. Your example that promotes healthy, active aging makes a huge impact in your communities and on multiple generations.
2020 was a year like no other in anyone’s living memory, beginning with prosperity and promise that was replaced by a worldwide pandemic and widespread disruption of nearly every aspect of daily life. As we all know, this included the necessity to postpone or cancel State Senior Games and change the national qualifying process.
It has also presented new challenges to planning and staging the National Senior Games presented by Humana due to the negative economic and social impact on society and the host region. Please know that we are diligently working through these challenges, and that it will be a little while longer before we can report specifics about The Games. We know many of you like to secure your travel plans as early as possible, but given the curve ball that is COVID, we want to be certain about posting information until it is confirmed.
We deeply appreciate the important work done by our Member Games. There are thousands of dedicated people involved with organizing and running 53 multisport events across the map each year. Please let these key people in your state know how much you appreciate their efforts to stage games.
Finally, if you are one of the many athletes who annually make a voluntary contribution to support NSGA, we want you to know how important that is to keep our organization moving forward. To make a tax-deductible donation to NSGA, please click here.
Wishing you and your family health and prosperity in the year ahead.
Happy Holidays and Long Live the Challenge!
December Athlete of the Month
The Adventures of Shirley Radecki
Winning two swimming medals in The National Senior Games is a remarkable achievement, but no one was more surprised to win them than Shirley Radecki, who struck gold and silver in her first appearance last year at the age of 90.
In a way it was very special, but it’s also just one more of many special moments she has enjoyed thanks to her daughter, Shaundele Leatherberry, who suggested they have “yearly adventures” involving physical activity and rustic settings to give them a challenge to look forward to. Some have also involved Shirley’s two sons and family members. After 22 years, the two can relate world travel tales of backpacking, riding motorcycles, scuba diving, and ocean swimming as typical activities. In recent years Shirley skydived at 80 and 85, climbed 14,000 feet up Mount Kilimanjaro at 89, and last year celebrated her 90th birthday by bungee jumping in a New Zealand gorge. Watch it here.
“I knew only 65% of people actually bungee jump once they are up there, but Mom didn’t look down and just walked out and jumped off,” Shaundele says. “The pressure was on me, because I knew she would jump.”
Shaundele, 68, says Shirley has always liked to stay active and modeled healthy practices for her children, saying “I remember how she did her Jack Lalanne exercises with the Glamour Stretcher and exercise ball every morning for years.” Shirley did not have the chance to play formal youth sports but learned to swim and kept it as a recreational activity. She also picked up golf as an adult and plays regularly. But in recent years she had difficulty finding active age peers, so her daughter had an idea to keep her mother engaged.
“Most others her age now just sit around playing cards and complaining about their prescriptions. There wasn’t anyone to do active stuff with around here,” Shaundele explains. “I got concerned and started encouraging her to do Senior Games. I wanted her to be around more active seniors and really have something to work toward.”
Shirley has no problem jumping out of planes, but still resisted the sports idea at first. “I’m not very competitive, and I didn’t want to embarrass myself.” But her daughter urged her to try, so mom got to work, finding a coach and practicing swimming and water aerobics weekly, and then successfully qualifying in the 2018 Oregon Senior Games.
The National Senior Games adventure impressed Shirley from the moment she saw the “WELCOME ATHLETES” sign at the Albuquerque airport full of enthusiastic people carrying their equipment and bags in. Finally feeling like an athlete, Shirley outdid herself in her second-ever swim meet and was rewarded with a Gold Medal in the 90-94 women’s 50-yard backstroke and a Silver Medal in the 100-yard backstroke, trading first place finishes with longtime swimmer Sara Sievert of Texas. “We were just a few seconds apart,” Radecki said. “She was pretty good competition. I hope to have more time to visit with her next time.”
Shirley also competed in the 100-yard breaststroke but was disqualified because she did not touch both hands on the wall or use proper leg form. The experience reinforced the need for regular practice for the future. Shaundele, who loves to play softball and swim, is now intrigued about joining Senior Games herself and not just be mom’s traveling companion next time.
The twice-widowed onetime flight attendant loves her adventures. The pandemic canceled this year’s Antarctica trip, but Costa Rica is next on their list. Shirley also plans to skydive again when she is 95. However, the simple things are still most important to her. “You know, it’s important to eat healthy, stay active and do what you do best. But having a good relationship with my family has been really special.”
We’d like to hear about you or an interesting athlete you admire-it just might be selected for a story! To submit yours, or to nominate another, Please Click Here.
A Word From Our Partners
Make Preventive Care Part of Your Senior Games Training
From annual wellness checkups to flu shots to routine care for chronic conditions – now is the time to take care of your health, making sure you are in tiptop shape to compete in the National Senior Games.
Many people are nervous about visiting the doctor, anxious that they will expose themselves and their loved ones to COVID-19. Unfortunately, this means many people are avoiding the routine, preventive care necessary to manage their health, particularly if they have a chronic condition like diabetes.
There are many ways to get the care you need safely, detecting possible health issues and avoiding undetected disease progression. Healthcare professionals are carefully following state guidelines to ensure patient safety. If you have questions, call your doctor and ask about their safety protocols. Similarly, ask your doctor or your health insurer about options for in-home care and telehealth if you are not comfortable leaving your home.
Dr. William Shrank, Humana’s Chief Medical Officer, recently appeared on CBS’ “The Doctors,” discussing the importance of preventive care, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Humana is committed to encouraging safety and well-being, while at the same time discouraging “medical distancing.” To see segment from the show, please click here.
Please remember, social distancing should not mean medical distancing. Taking care of your health today sets you up for success when you return to Senior Games competition.
Senior Health and Wellness
Study Shows Excellent Screening Results for Senior Games Athletes
New Senior Athlete Fitness Exam (SAFE) research with National Senior Games Association (NSGA) athletes show exceptional cardiovascular screening results. In the recent study, Keep Them in the Game: Screening Cardiovascular Disease and Diabetes in Aging Athletes, lead author, Dr. Becca Jordre found that NSGA athletes demonstrate “substantially and significantly lower rates” of cardiovascular disease and diabetes when compared to the general population of the same age. A summary of Dr. Jordre’s article can be found here.
The following question and answer exchange with Dr. Jordre and National Senior Game Association Director of Health and Wellness, Andrew Walker MPH, explores findings from the most recent SAFE study.
Andrew: Can you give us a brief overview of your new study results?
Dr. Jordre: This study focused specifically on cardiovascular health and risk factors in over 2,000 NSGA athletes. We asked questions about cardiovascular disease and diabetes and we looked at anthropometric measures such as body mass index, waist circumference and waist to hip ratio. We again found that NSGA athletes are some of the heathiest aging adults around.
Andrew: Senior athletes are a little competitive. Can you quantify how well they did in this study?
Dr. Jordre: Well, they should be proud! We found the prevalence of cardiovascular disease for male senior athletes was 34-38% lower than in the general population and for females it was 41-57% lower. What was even more amazing to me was the prevalence of diabetes. NSGA athletes demonstrated rates that were 73-77% lower than the general population.
Andrew: In light of these exceptional findings from the SAFE, what are your recommendations to NSGA athletes?
Dr. Jordre: While NSGA athletes did demonstrate superior health, they are not immune to cardiovascular health risks. Our measurements of waist-to hip-ratio found that 40% of NSGA athletes are at risk for cardiovascular disease or diabetes. I would encourage athletes to continue with conscientious health habits such as healthy eating, regular exercise and regular health screenings to monitor their progress. Last year we created a cardiovascular health guide specifically for senior athletes. You can find it here.
Andrew: A recent report on physical activity in Americans shows that few older adults get the suggested amount of physical activity. What about NSGA athletes?
Dr. Jordre: You’re right, only about one quarter of older adults get the 150 minutes of aerobic exercise recommended each week. We found that NSGA athletes average more than 300 minutes of aerobic exercise each week and about an hour of strength training. I think this helps to explain their excellent health outcomes. NSGA athletes should really be proud of these results! They demonstrate what is possible with active aging.
NSGA Health & Wellness Partners
NSGA Sport Partners