Welcoming the Games

Organizers and past award winners of the Northwest Senior Games gather at the opening ceremonies Monday.

The Northwest Senior Games keeps older adults active, as they engage in physical and mental activities of their choice.

The Games, currently underway at various locations in Thunder Bay, started on Sunday and runs until Friday. There are a variety of options for participants, ages 55 years and older, in Region 1 (Thunder Bay to Longlac).

The list includes cribbage doubles, euchre doubles, 10-pin bowling, the prediction walk, snooker (men’s singles), floor shuffleboard, contract bridge (doubles), five-pin bowling, golf (18 holes), whist doubles, bid euchre doubles and snooker (ladies singles). Some events — carpet bowling, horsehoes, tennis, bocce ball and eight-ball — had to be cancelled this year, due to lack of registrants.

At the opening ceremony on Monday at the Oliver Road Recreation Centre, longtime volunteer, organizer, and participant, both locally and provincially — Crystal Kell, 88 — received an award for her services. Following a dinner there, singer Tommy Horricks entertained the crowd.

Kell served on the Ontario Senior Games Association board of directors in 2002. She also earned a provincial award in 2005 for her participation and leadership skills.

“I was surprised that I was honored,” says Kell.

Earlier that day, she and partner, Lola Russell, 87, captured gold in euchre at the Thunder Bay 55 Plus Centre.

“A busy senior is a healthy senior,” says Kell, who considers herself to be a competitive person, happy for their win, though in the spirit of fun.

Jennifer Bulloch, Community Program Developer – Older Adults for the City of Thunder Bay, is in her first year as one of the organizers of the Games.

She estimates that close to 200 participants are taking part in this year’s event — a little lower than last year’s figure.

“It could be because it’s not a provincial year. 2020 is a provincial year,” says Bulloch, who expects a bigger turnout next year as a result

During what’s considered a provincial year, the first-place winners of all disciplines advance to the provincial Senior Games championship, which happens every second year.

“It’s something different offered,” she says of the Northwest Senior Games Summer 2019. “It probably gives people the motivation to reach their goals. Maybe if it’s a sport they used to do, it gives them the motivation to get back out there to win a gold.”

Karate brown-belt Francine Lavoie, 63, might have hung up her sparring gear, but she hasn’t given up on other pursuits. Once a competitive fighter, she has decided to concentrate more on activities that are mentally challenging during this year’s Senior Games — namely euchre, bid euchre, whist, floor shuffleboard and cribbage.

The avid athlete turned in her karate uniform for the outdoor wear of hiking and cycling and is still committed to those endeavors. She has walked extensively, especially while in Spain, having conquered a 830-kilometre trek by herself.

While she says she entered this year’s Senior Games just for fun, she does other activities on a more serious level.

“I’m more competitive for physical things, like pickleball and cycling,” says Lavoie.

Though she doesn’t want to reign in her competitiveness, she recognizes that she needs to pace herself.

“The doctor said, ‘Francine, you don’t have to win all the time,” she says. “It’s hard to accept you’re getting old when you’ve been active all your life. It’s hard to slow down because of health issues.”

Champion skydiver, Kathy Kangas, 75, is more known for her achievements in the sky. At the Northwest Senior Games Summer 2019, she took to the security of ground. A former 15—year veteran of competitive skydiving, she won gold in the team 10-pin bowling event on June 3 at Mario’s Bowl.

Kangas was joined by teammates Colleen Belanger, Lois Wakewich and Russell Luxton. Second-place went to the team consisting of Diane Warpula, Shirley Wickstrom, Lynn Lecocq and Gail Lehmann.

Kangas, an inductee in the Northwestern Ontario Sports Hall of Fame in the athlete category, has 3,112 jumps under her belt. She won the Canadian Championship four times and is a world silver and bronze medallist.

“I’m still competitive — it’s in my nature, but it’s not a big deal anymore,” she admits. “I’m starting to get less competitive. That comes with age. The body can’t do what it used to.”

She considers her involvement in the Senior Games more as a social opportunity.

Having given up skydiving at the age of 43, she golfs, works out three times a week and used to play pool.

Herb Schaefer, 89, is still going strong on the lanes and in his personal life. He golfs and bowls 10-pin regularly.

“I feel great,” he says. “I live in my own house. I’m a barber. I still have a few customers (friends) who come to my house.”

Schaefer is a member of the third-place team in 10-pin bowling at the Northwest Senior Games Summer 2019. Jim Homeniuk, Bill Mersereau and Claude Godin rounded out the team.

“It’s tremendous,” says Schaefer of the opportunity to compete in a sport he loves. “It gives anybody a chance to know his talents.”

Ken Simard, President of the OSGA for Region 1, stresses the importance of regular activity for older adults.

“The attraction is getting them out of the house,” says the Board of Directors member for the Northwest Senior Games Summer 2019. “It gives them experience.”

The focus isn’t just on fun. The annual event provides former avid athletes an avenue to satisfy their competitive streak, though perhaps on a different level.

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