Monday, February 13, 2017

Virginia Senior Games: What are they?

by Nancy Turnage
Member Services Coordinator
VRPS Central Office

This is an update on a blogpost from days past - about 845 days past, actually.

In October, 2014, I was working on results from my 2nd Virginia Senior Games.  Now, in February, 2017, we're working on registration, coordinating, and all the other tasks that go into producing a great event.  It seems that the Virginia Senior Games are still doing their thing - making people happy, encouraging activity, and continually proving that "you're only as old as you feel".

A few weeks ago, I returned from the 2017 National Senior Games Conference.  There were representatives from most states, and we learned much about what's happening outside our own Games.  For example, North Dakota is embarking on their first games ever this year.  Massachusetts is a proponent of SAFE testing for athletes (Senior Athlete Fitness Exam), and Florida holds its games in December - to accommodate, among others, those athletes who did not qualify for National Senior Games earlier in the year and want one last go.  We discussed registration and results and marketing and funding.  We shared sponsorship ideas and terminology and successes and failures.  And, mostly, we marveled at the great opportunity that the Senior Games provides for communities all over the country.

So, please enjoy the story below.  Because it's a story that's worth telling, and sharing.

Virginians, like the rest of America, are riding the age wave:

  • Roughly 10,000 Baby Boomers will turn 65 today, and this will continue every day through 2030 (Pew Research Center).
  • An American turns 50 every 7 seconds – that’s more than 12,500 people every day (US Census).
  • The senior age group is now, for the first time, the largest in terms of size and percent of the population in the U.S. By 2015, those aged 50 and older will represent 45 percent of the U.S. population (AARP).

The Virginia Recreation and Park Society (VRPS) is a private, non-profit professional organization, founded in 1953. Its purpose is to unite all professionals, students, and interested lay persons engaged in the field of recreation, parks, and other leisure services in the Commonwealth of Virginia. VRPS is affiliated with the National Recreation and Park Association.

In keeping with its mission to promote parks and recreation to the benefit of Virginians, VRPS produces the Virginia Senior Games (VSG), an annual athletic event offering competition in over 21 sports over the course of 4 days for participants aged 50 and older. The first Virginia Senior Games were held in 1978 in Richmond and presented contests in 14 sports. The Games move around the state and are typically hosted in the same locality for four years before moving on. Athletes today can compete in upwards of 21 sports, ranging from Archery to Volleyball and most everything in between. Recent, popular additions include Pickleball, Cycling, and Disc Golf.

The Virginia Senior Games is a qualifying competition for the National Senior Games, which take place every other year. VSG is also an open event, so that no scores or times are required for entry. Athletes can compete in multiple sports, and out-of-state sportspersons are welcome. Competition adheres to National Senior Games rules, and medals are awarded in each age category (5-year increments). Additionally, athletes and their guests are treated to an annual Athletes’ Party and Wellness Fair, based on a new festive theme each year and offering activities, musical entertainment, and snacks, all in keeping with a showcase for services and resources for healthy lifestyles in Virginia.

Clearly, the benefits to VSG athletes are monumental – the physical demands of competition encourage participants to train year-round, in many cases. This preparation also lends itself both to greater daily structure and socializing. And, needless to say, winning, losing, and teamwork are their own reward. However, one might wonder if the true winners are the volunteers and spectators.

  • To witness a 101-year-young swimmer complete in both 50m and 100m freestyle swimming races, and thereby set World Records, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
  • To watch a 77-year-young Vietnam War veteran tossing horseshoes and bowling balls from his wheelchair, where he has sat since 1963 as the only survivor of his combat helicopter flight, is a privilege.
  • To meet a 50-something-year-young road racer who competes wearing a fluffy pink tutu is a lesson in what matters.
For some, especially the women, VSG is the first time in their lives that they have the opportunity to learn and experience the value of sport competition. Every athlete has a story – and it begins back home, during the course of their training and their decision to compete in the Virginia Senior Games. For example, that 101-year old swimmer drove herself to the pool every morning at 5am to train. That “horseshoer” was an advocate for ADA and spent most of his life working with autistic individuals. The road racer … well she’s simply a knockout ….

Virginia Senior Games fun facts:

  • 2017 is the 39th year of the Virginia Senior Games.
  • Competition is offered in: Archery, Badminton, Basketball, Billiards, Bowling, Canasta, Cycling, Disc Golf, Golf, Horseshoes, Mini Golf, Pickleball, Pinochle, Racquetball, Road Race, Shuffleboard, Softball, Swimming, Table Tennis, Tennis, Track & Field, and Volleyball.
  • Athletes must be 50 on or before December 31 of the competition year in order to participate.
  • Team competition is offered in both Basketball and Volleyball.
  • Partners and teams compete in the age group of the youngest participant.
  • Registration for the games begins at the beginning of the year, and the games take place mid-May.
  • Henrico County Recreation and Parks will be hosting the 2017 games.
  • To learn more about Virginia Senior Games, visit
  • To enjoy photos and more, visit
In memory of Samuel “Doc” Morton (September 20, 1937 – July 8, 2014) and all the others who will not return to the Games in 2017. Thank you for your years of exemplary athletic dedication and competition.

Visit the Virginia Senior Games webpage
Interested in becoming a sponsor or Wellness Expo exhibitor?
See all the fun on Facebook!
Enjoy the latest Athlete E-Blast
View the 2017 Registration Brochure

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