Posts Tagged ‘Aging’

How to Overcome the Challenges of Moving to Assisted Living … Using TV Catchphrases

A few years ago, you bought a medical alert system for your older parent or relative. Then later, you added in-home care to help her with the activities of daily living. Now, you’re done with aging in place. She’s moving into assisted living.

When moving day arrives, emotions might be high—but risk should be low. Let’s look at everything you need to know to keep seniors safe during the move. To help with our journey, we’ve enlisted the help of our friend, the television.

And a one … and a two …  and awaaaay we go!How to Overcome the Challenges of Moving into Assisted Living ... Using TV Catchphrases

Ask her, “How you doin’?”

Moving into assisted living is a huge change, so don’t trivialize the impact. Acknowledge the emotions moving causes and don’t let those feelings of helplessness, anger and sadness simmer. Talk it out, frequently.

Don’t look back: “The tribe has spoken”

Make moving a collaborative process so that your loved one can be involved. After all, she is the one who’s actually moving. Work with her to organize and plan the move. It’s not about you doing it all or her doing it all. Do it together.

Once you’ve made the decision to move to assisted living, don’t look back. Don’t go 50 rounds once you’ve made the decision. This isn’t an occasion to keep asking, “Is that your final answer?” Make the call and move on.

“Just the facts, ma’am”

Don’t get fooled by sales talk or fancy brochures. Visit as many facilities as you can with your loved one. When you visit the facilities, examine all aspects of life. Never assume anything when you’re visiting—ask questions! Most importantly, use a checklist like this one to inspect the assisted living facility so you can compare the options available.

Talking to residents is one of the best ways to learn what it’s actually like to live at the facility, so don’t be shy to ask them questions! After your visit, talk with your loved one about what you both liked and disliked about each facility so you can choose the one that best fits both their needs and their wants.

“Move that bus”: How to get your home ready to sell

Your home may not need an extreme makeover, but now that you’ve chosen your ideal facility, it’s time to get your house ready to sell. Go through the house, clean it up, and make those small repairs that have been put off for years. You want your house to shine for prospective buyers! Work with a real estate professional to sell the house. It’s one less item that you have to manage, and you’ll make sure you’re getting full market value for the assets.

“Well, isn’t that special?” Bring the things that matter, but not everything

Moving into an assisted living facility means your loved one has to narrow down what they want to bring with them. First, talk to the facility to learn what is and is not allowed. Then you and your loved one need to have a talk—be careful not to assume what they want to take with them.

Make sure your loved one brings her favorite belongings. You want to avoid clutter, but you also want to recreate the feeling of home in the new space. Be careful of the temptation to buy your loved one completely new furniture for their new home—many older adults prefer to keep their favorite recliner or sleep in their own bed.

Finally, double-check that you have packed the basic, day-to-day items she will need. These include medication, shampoo, toothbrush and other toiletries. Pack enough clothing to fill the closets. Include enough underwear and socks so that there is always a clean set available. Bring sweaters for air conditioning, and nice outfits for socializing events.

Choosing which items to bring can be the most difficult part of this process. Your loved one will likely need to downsize. Keep up the conversation with her so that everything she needs to be happy and feel at home is packed to bring with her.

“Grab your gear” (Or better yet, have someone else grab it)

Once you’ve decided what your loved one is bringing with her, it’s time to get it over to the new place. Let a moving company take care of things. While they do the heavy lifting, you can go over the paperwork to update your loved one’s address with the post office and necessary companies. You want her to continue getting her mail!

“Hi, everybody!” Make some new friends

It can be hard to make friends as a senior. She doesn’t have to announce herself every time she enters a room at the new facility, but your mother will have to try a bit. Work with your loved one to create a friend strategy before you arrive. Encourage them to meet the neighbors. Look at all of the available activities and pick a few to try. Meeting new friends and staying busy will ease the transition and make living in the facility much more enjoyable.

Conclusion

You’re not Mighty Mouse. Your job isn’t to save the day. Just do a little planning and help her transition to assisted living. Bring your plan and do the work, and you’ll be just fine. Remember, with clear eyes and a full heart, you can’t lose.

Shayne Fitz-Coy is an NAHB Certified Aging In Place Expert and has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Harvard as well as a Master’s in Business Administration from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Shayne hails from Maryland, and now calls the Bay Area home. As the Co-CEO and President of Alert-1, an aging-in-place technology company, Shayne writes about issues that matter to seniors and those that care about them.

The Last Stop: On the Go

For nine installments, I’ve been describing my senior living experiences. This month, I want my readers to know how good it feels to get away. I feel fortunate that I have places to go, people who want to see me and that I can handle the unpredictable, challenging experience of travel.

So far, so good.Margery prepares for takeoff!

When I went to Beijing to visit my son, he suggested I order a wheelchair when I landed to get me to where he would be waiting. I was insulted and firmly told him I had no problem walking and he should know that. The truth is, he was travel-smart and I was dumb.

In a country where few understand my language and I don’t understand theirs, there is a huge risk of getting misdirected when traveling alone and not being able to ask anyone for help. He was so right and I was stupidly vain. I was sure glad I did what he told me anyway. I went from the plane to the wheelchair to his care without a hitch.

Read more about Margery’s travels, including some helpful advice for seniors who decide to hit the road, in “Part 11: On The Road.”

This post was written by Margery Fridstein, an author and retired psychotherapist who lives in a CCRC outside of Denver, CO. She is chronicling her experience in the monthly series, “The Last Stop With Margery Fridstein.”

5 Tips to Help Seniors Saving for Retirement

According to the Employee Benefit Research Institute, only 28 percent of retirees feel they have enough money saved up for their retirement. It’s probably safe to assume that the rest of those folks are dealing with a significant amount of stress.

The older we get, the harder it is to pull in any income, meaning that your sunset years could be obscured by a stormy horizon. Not to fear, though—there are several things seniors can do to generate more cash, or spend less of it, after they’ve retired. Check out these five tips.

1. Cut Your Food CostsTips to Help Seniors Saving for Retirement

If you’re not clipping coupons from the Sunday paper to save on groceries, start now. It’s a tried-and-true method of conserving funds, and it’s just as effective as it was when you were younger. If you know your way around a smartphone, try out apps like Grocery Pal and Checkout 51. Like to eat out at restaurants? Visit deal-of-the-day websites like Groupon and LivingSocial to get 50-percent-off vouchers for restaurant trips.

2. Get Healthier

According to Fidelity, the average 65-year-old couple who retired last year can plan on spending $220,000 on healthcare expenses throughout their retirement. Although I don’t dispute that number, I firmly believe it’s possible to spend significantly less. Join the YMCA (the Silver Sneakers program may be offered for free) or start a workout program at home. Get active and you can not only live longer, you can lower your health insurance costs, to boot.

3. Reduce Entertainment Expenses

My mom is 82 years old. Sure, she could spend her money on theater tickets and fancy restaurants, but instead she invites all of her kids over every other Saturday for a fun game night—a great, inexpensive way to spend time with the ones she loves.

You can also save money by cutting the cable cord and signing up for Hulu Plus or Netflix. Or, rent movies from Redbox for a little more than $1 per day. There are countless ways to cut your entertainment costs during retirement, so don’t let pricier options fritter away at your nest egg.

4. Save on Travel

Use websites like BookingBuddy or CheapOair to track flight prices and save on airfare. Your preferred airline’s website may also offer a cheap rate that won’t necessarily be advertised elsewhere. Travel during the week when possible, book your flights from Monday through Thursday when most sales are going on, and combine luggage to save on checked bag fees.

5. Get Rid of a Car

Got two cars? You probably don’t need both of them. Even if you only have one, though, think seriously about selling it. If your neighborhood has a decent public transit system, you might be able to get around without a set of wheels altogether. You can not only save on gas by making this move, but also insurance, upkeep and a variety of other expenses associated with automobile ownership.

Drumming up extra money during retirement isn’t an easy task. Banking institutions are not going to offer you retirement loans, and your kids are probably dealing with their own financial difficulties. Do what you can today to drum up more money for your golden years and you just might find that the retirement you’re hoping for is within reach.

What other tips do you know of for retirees who need more money?

Martin Davis writes about senior living, retirement savings, investing, and smart money management.

Joan’s Journey: One Senior’s Journey Motivates Another

Welcome Joan’s Journeyers! I write this on a lovely, sunny Sunday in Santa Monica. I have a big smile on my face and I’m delighted to share why with you.

First, I’m happy and content after spending Friday afternoon at the fabulous Santa Monica Pier and Beach with my grandson Oliver, 4, and granddaughter Madeline, 1. Oliver threw five balls at the Game Park and won a toy whale for himself and a giraffe for his sister. In terms of quality time spent with my grandchildren, moving to senior living and changing my lifestyle is ever so worth it.

The second reason I’m in a good mood is that our activity director, Brenda Martinez, declared today “Grandparents Appreciation Day” at Holiday Villa East (HVE). We had a delightful social hour, with lovely tables set with pretty dishes and flowers. Iced peach tea, hot tea and lemon, blueberry and sesame cakes were delicious companions to the conversations.

Third, I’m smiling from a lovely email I received from my SeniorHomes.com Care Advisor, Cindy Fox. I had the pleasure of working more than two years with Cindy as my Care Advisor. Cindy patiently guided me in identifying appropriate senior residences that fit the criteria we jointly determined, including location, budget and degree of independent living.

Cindy brings a smile to my face because, after much deliberation and following Joan’s Journey, Cindy is relocating to senior living. Cindy’s email is so expressive and heartfelt, that with her permission, I am sharing her thoughts with Joan’s Journeyers. Sharing experiences helps decision-making. SeniorHomes.com and I invite you to share your senior living relocation experiences with us in the Comment Box below.

Cindy Speaks

“Seems like this is the time for change in our lives. We reach a certain age and suddenly have the need to be closer to family. As I am quickly approaching 61, I too have had an awakening that is moving me in new directions.

“I have decided to relocate back East to be there for my 82-year-old mom and closer to my daughter and 3-year-old grandson. Being on the West Coast, while they are on the East Coast, has made it difficult to visit and have meaningful time together. I am putting my strong aversion to the East Coast winters aside and leaving in less than a week. I will be driving across country with books on tape and good music as companions. I hope to complete the journey in four days or less!

“I am looking forward to being present for my mom during her final years and having more time with my grandson. I am sure you [Joan] are feeling the same. I hope life continues to bring magical moments. Thanks for sharing your Journey with me. I have and will continue to enjoy hearing about you on your blog!”

Joan’s Journey and SeniorHomes.com wish Cindy and all journeyers much joy and happiness as they relocate close to those they hold most dear.

In the next Joan’s Journey, we move from celebrating life to celebrating death—a real dynamic of living in a senior residence—and one I never considered on my journey. Accidents, illness, dying, and death are part of the senior community rhythm. How a residence deals with these realities is important as one investigates senior living. Until the next post, enjoy the Journey, day-by-day.

Joan London, a former Houston Chronicle correspondent and noted magazine writer/editor, now specializes in freelance writing/editing of issues relating to seniors. London moved to a senior community in Southern California, where she has enhanced her quality of life and is close to her children and grandchildren. Follow all of Joan’s Journey at SeniorHomes.com.

Overcoming the Roadblocks of Aging: The Surprising Lessons from “Downton Abbey”

The days of butlers, footmen and personal valets are long past, but technology can provide a great array of substitutes to make aging in place more comfortable and manageable than ever before. It’s almost as nice as having a staff at Downton Abbey.

How do today’s technologies measure up to living in the famed manse? See for yourself!

How to clean your home efficiently: Mrs. Hughes vs. Roomba

Mrs. Hughes is delightful—warm, loving and loyal. But when it comes to cleaning house, Roomba gives her and her staff of housemaids some good competition. The zippy robot 'Downton Abbey' vs. technologyvacuum traverses your rooms to pick up dirt, hair and dust without complaint. When it needs charging, it heads over to its docking station for a rest. You hardly know it’s around, except that your floors are free of debris!

How to entertain yourself: Miss Sarah O’Brien vs. Netflix

Lady’s maids are a great help around the chamber—and an even better source of gossip and company. Today, seniors have Netflix to take O’Brien’s place. For only $8.99 a month, the world’s entertainment is at your fingertips. OK, so the TV cannot make your bed and brush your hair. But in terms of entertaining you without fail, and without getting tired, “Orange is the New Black” cannot be beat!

How to get from point A to point B: Tom Branson vs. Uber

Private drivers are the ultimate luxury. If you were Lady Grantham, you could summon your footman to ready your carriage and to run you across town. But having a private driver is hardly a thing of the past. Uber, a car service accessible to anyone with a smartphone, provides you with an army of private drivers who are ready to run you just about anywhere your heart desires. They are, as they say, “Everyone’s private driver.” Plus, you never have to worry about Uber running away with your daughter.

What’s wrong with me, doctor? Dr. Clarkson vs. HealthTap

Dr. Clarkson is the well-meaning Crawley family doctor. Unfortunately, he’s often proven incorrect. Rather than taking the word of one physician, modern seniors can trust the wisdom of crowds. HealthTap gives you free access to advice from thousands of trusted doctors, available 24/7/365. Ask any question free and anonymously. Pay a monthly subscription and you will get unlimited live consultations with physicians. Doctors can now make house calls through your phone and computer.

Cooking for seniors at home: Mrs. Beryl Patmore vs. the Yummly app and your microwave

You have to love dear old Mrs. Patmore and her sumptuous feasts! When the ingredients fail or work of the younger cooks falter, Mrs. Patmore unleashes her fury. Imagine how much easier her life would be if she could use her smartphone and the Yummly app like modern seniors can. Yummly helps search for recipes by ingredient, course and taste preference. Missing ingredients? Yummly can understand which ingredients you have and suggest the perfect recipe for what’s in your fridge.

On top of that, today’s seniors have an advantage Mrs. Patmore lacked—a microwave to speed their culinary creations! It cooks quickly, evenly, and without reliance on heated elements or hot surfaces that pose safety risks. It offers unprecedented convenience and luxury.

Conclusion

Downton runs into trouble because the Earl of Grantham is slow to embrace new technology. Luckily, he has smart daughters and a large staff to help him overcome life’s roadblocks. Learn from his mistakes; embrace these new technologies and make aging in place a breeze.

Shayne Fitz-Coy is the Co-CEO and President of Alert-1, an aging-in-place technology company headquartered in Williamsport, Pa., with offices nationwide. Shayne has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Harvard College and a Masters in Business Administration from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Shayne hails from Maryland, and now calls the Bay Area home.

 

Celebrate National Assisted Living Week with SeniorHomes.com!

By 2020, there will be an estimated 21 million seniors who are 75 and older in the United States. Behind this number will be families grappling with how to care for loved ones. When a family member needs support, it is instinctive to turn inward, for families to support each other and find the solution within the family. Yet that is often overlooking the support an outside partner can play in lessening the burden for all involved and making life a bit easier.

Many people still think that assisted living communities are nursing homes—and this could not be more wrong. Assisted living communities are filled with seniors National Assisted Living Week - Logo
in their 80s, 90s, and some even celebrating the century mark, who are still active and living independent lives. They visit zoos, attend plays and even kayak down a local river. The only difference which sets these seniors apart from their younger 60s and 70s counterparts is the need of supportive assistance to retain their independence.

This is why SeniorHomes.com is proud to recognize National Assisted Living Week, which runs from Sept. 7-13. The National Center for Assisted Living started National Assisted Living Week in 1995 to celebrate and honor relationships between residents, families and the dedicated staff members who provide person-centered care each and every day.

Every week we work with more than 1,000 consumers, answering their questions about what is assisted living and matching them to communities which deliver this person-centered care. And we partner with the most reputable senior living companies across the nation so families have options that will fit every budget and every state.

“We are proud of the role we play in helping seniors and families find the best community possible,” says Chris Rodde, CEO of SeniorHomes.com. “Our care advisors take the time to know each consumer and learn what type of support and lifestyle is wanted. Every week we receive a ‘thank you,’ whether from a senior or their family, for the help we provided in matching them to a community. Many never knew how rewarding life could be after moving into a community.”

We invite you to join SeniorHomes.com in recognizing National Assisted Living Week.

The Last Stop: With Technology, We Try

I think our grands and great-grands find current technology easier than using a knife, fork or spoon. We marvel at them. Technology is not a challenge for children and teenagers; it's a way of life.

In contrast, my age-mates and I find new technology an ongoing struggle. We end up cursing at our smartphones and computers and wish for the olden days.

I find that at my retirement community, computer frustration is a regular part of dinner conversation.

Read more about Margery’s efforts to become more tech-savvy—and why some of her friends choose not to embrace technology—in “Part 10: With Technology, We Try.”

This post was written by Margery Fridstein, an author and retired psychotherapist who lives in a CCRC outside of Denver, CO. She is chronicling her experience in the monthly series, “The Last Stop With Margery Fridstein.”

Four Smart Strategies from Derek Zoolander that Can Help You Prevent Senior Dehydration

As Derek, the title character in “Zoolander,” said, “Moisture is the essence of wetness, and wetness is the essence of beauty.” His words were silly, but his intentions were not.

Proper hydration is essential to life. More than half of our bodies are water. Water helps us digest food, keeps joints working properly and maintains blood pressure and body temperature. But many Americans—and many seniors—still do not drink enough water. Elderly dehydration is common both in assisted living or aging-in-place scenarios.

In this post, we’ll discuss dehydration matters and why seniors are at such great risk. Then, you’ll learn four smart strategies from Derek Zoolander to help prevent senior dehydration.

“I’m a hot little potato right now!”

Dehydration is a major problem for seniors and a leading contributor to elderly
hospitalizations. Thirsty seniors have higher risks of falling and more cognitive difficulty. Also, dehydrated seniors face medical conditions like urinary tract
'Zoolander' star Ben Stillerinfections, kidney stones or constipation. Taken to extremes, severe water loss leads to heat stroke or even death.

Now, the worse news: The natural process of aging makes seniors even more susceptible to dehydration. As we age, our bodies hold less water and we are less aware of body temperature changes. This makes seniors less likely to take in fluids to self-regulate temperature.

Complicating matters, many seniors have difficulty swallowing, so drinking water becomes a painful chore. Further, some seniors restrict their water consumption because of fears of age-related incontinence. Finally, many medications that seniors take cause diuresis, sweating or reduced thirst.

Taken altogether, we’ve got a recipe for a perfect storm for dehydrated seniors. Let’s see what lessons we can learn from international male model Derek Zoolander.

1. The “How can we be expected to teach children to learn how to read … if they can’t even fit inside the building?” technique

Derek rejected the school because it was too small for children to fit. But many seniors face the opposite problem. How can we be expected to make sure our seniors drink if they can’t even hold the cups?

Know that your seniors also have a certain set of skills, but those are different than they used to be. The 50-ounce Big Gulp that appeals to a 20-something may look like a Crock-Pot to a 70-something. Help them out by focusing on small amounts first.

Make sure your loved ones have appropriately sized cups, utensils and cutlery. Cups with handles or lids or straws may help them drink in a comfortable manner.

Bonus tip: Place small water bottles around the home for seniors to carry around and keep near their bed. This helps seniors with mobility or memory issues get easy access to water.

2. The “Orange Mocha Frappuccino” technique

Derek’s friends helped him sort through important issues over a few Orange Mocha Frappuccinos. Derek and company knew they could get fluids from non-water sources as well.

Ignore the old “eight glasses of water” rule. Savvy seniors consume fluids in many variations. Add lemon or fruit to water as a hydration hack to make water taste better. One note of caution, though: Seniors should steer clear of alcohol and sugary sports beverages. The former has diuretic effects and the latter may aggravate diabetes.

Seniors can also add fluids by having soup with every meal. Opt for water or broth based soups rather than cream based soups.

Also, many plant-based foods have high water content. Melons, grapefruit, strawberries and raw tomatoes are great natural sources. Throw in raw vegetables and you have a nutritious and hydrating combination.

3. The “Listen to your friend Billy Zane, he’s a cool dude!” technique

When Zoolander needed help, his friend, actor Billy Zane, was there. Be like Billy, and be a friend to a senior in need.

Tell your senior to check his weight daily. Weight loss may be an early sign of dehydration. If he is down a pound, make sure he drinks it up. Also, ask your senior to check his urine color. Make sure his urine is lemonade colored or lighter.

Not everyone lives close enough to their senior to provide daily hydration reminders. Remote caregivers should consider a medical reminder service. Medical reminder services check in with your senior at the same time(s) every day. These systems help make sure he/she remembers to drink enough water (or take proper medications) every day.

4. The “You can read minds?” technique

In one of the most memorable scenes in the film, Zoolander mistakes Matilda for a clairvoyant.

Well, Matilda couldn’t read minds and neither can you.

Rather than try to intuit how much water your senior is drinking, find out for sure. Option number one is to ask on a weekly basis. Let’s try option number two.

Home water delivery services can help seniors get enough water. If you deliver two bottles of water each month, you can use the delivery amounts to ensure your senior is consuming enough water. If the bottles aren’t moving fast, then your senior isn’t drinking enough.

Conclusion

Derek Zoolander only had one skill, “being really, really, really good looking.” Perhaps you don’t have chiseled abs and perfect cheek bones. But, you can use the four techniques above and keep your senior “mer-man” safe and hydrated.

Shayne Fitz-Coy is an NAHB Certified Aging In Place Expert and has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Harvard as well as a Master’s in Business Administration from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Shayne hails from Maryland, and now calls the Bay Area home. As the Co-CEO and President of Alert-1, an aging-in-place technology company, Shayne writes about issues that matter to seniors and those that care about them.



Joan’s Journey: Celebrate the Moments

July 4, 2014, was more than a patriotic day for Goldie, a resident of senior hotel Holiday Villa East (HVE) in Santa Monica, Calif. This splendid holiday was also Goldie’s 100th birthday. Goldie joined the prestigious ranks of centurions—people who have lived to or beyond 100 years.

A delicious barbecue at HVE featured traditional hot dogs, hamburgers and Joan's Journey - Goldie turns 100spicy chicken wings. A mariachi band played while residents, guests and caregivers danced. But the highlight of the celebration occurred when Goldie stood, party-goers applauded and the band serenaded Goldie with “Happy Birthday to You.” As Goldie basked in the beauty of the moment, 104-year-old Jack applauded from a nearby table. Jack is on his way to becoming a supercentenarian—one who has lived to or beyond 110 years.

Welcome, Joan’s Journeyers. Here’s a bit of centenarian trivia. In 2012, the United Nations estimated there were 316,600 living centenarians worldwide. Only 33 people worldwide have indisputably reached 115 years.

John W. Santrock, author of “A Topical Approach to Life-Span Development,” identifies seven factors most important to becoming a centenarian:

  • Heredity and family history;
  • Health, weight and diet;
  • History of past or current smoking;
  • Amount of exercise;
  • Educational level;
  • Personality; and
  • Lifestyle.

Santrock notes the largest groups of centenarians are women who have never been married and people who have been through traumatic life events and learned to cope. Moreover, centenarian lifestyles often include:

  • Nourishment rich in grains, fish, and vegetables;
  • Food plan light in meats, eggs, and dairy products;
  • Low stress;
  • Caring community where seniors are not isolated;
  • Proper health care and personal care;
  • Emphasis on activities like walking and gardening; and
  • Spirituality, where a sense of purpose comes from involvement and prayer eases the mind.
CAT Brings Centurion Lifestyle Changes

Joan's Journey - HVE Resident dances with aide on July 4Joan’s Journeyers, why in a blog series about senior living residences am I presenting a mini-geriatrics seminar? Perhaps it’s obvious from my lead. Our centenarians, Goldie and Jack, magnificently represent folks living the lifestyles described by Santrock. Goldie, Jack and I live in a senior living community that exemplifies centurions.

In the last Joan’s Journey, I described three key words that spell “CAT.” “C” represents changes occurring in my daily life at HVE. “A” stands for the necessary acceptance of new, different and potentially negative situations that may occur. “T” relates to the permission of time I’ve given myself to become comfortable with the changes. In upcoming blogs, I will discuss life as a resident of HVE and how I accept and cope with CAT and a centurion lifestyle.

Journeyers, have you encountered CAT at senior living or along life’s Journey? SeniorHomes.com and I invite you to share your experiences below. Until the next Joan’s Journey, enjoy the trip, day by day.

Joan London, a former Houston Chronicle correspondent and noted magazine writer/editor, now specializes in freelance writing/editing of issues relating to seniors. London moved to a senior community in Southern California, where she has enhanced her quality of life and is close to her children and grandchildren. Follow all of Joan’s Journey at SeniorHomes.com.

Active Northwest Seniors Compete in the 18th Annual Washington State Senior Games

Across the United State this summer, seniors are competing against their peers in senior games—proving that you can be an athlete at any age. In recognition of these games, and with this year being a qualifying year for the National Senior Games in 2015, we are publishing a series of articles about the senior games. Join us as we celebrate the men and women who are redefining active aging.

WA State Senior Games - Athletes hugging

Photo courtesy of Washington State Senior Games

This July, seniors—from Oregon, British Columbia, and even from California and Arizona—will converge in the Olympia area to compete in the Washington State Senior Games (WSSG). For 18 years, these games have enabled seniors the opportunity to compete against their peers in a professional setting and be cheered on by family and friends.

According to Jack Kiley, president of the WSSG, the games came to Washington State late; while the first National Senior Olympic Game was held in 1987 in St. Louis, the games didn’t begin in Washington until 1996. At that time, it was called the Puget Sound Senior Games and there were only a few hundred participants competing in four to five sporting events. Now Kiley says that 23 events are offered with 2,000 participants competing each year, and we are still “trying to get past that 2,000 person plateau,” he says.

Though their games are “very inclusive,” allowing out-of-state seniors to participate, Kiley admits there is difficulty spreading word about Washington’s games due to a limited budget. Though they send flyers to senior centers and YMCAs, it is mostly through word-of-mouth that seniors learn about us and join the games, he explains.

Basketball team at Washington State Senior Games

Photo courtesy of Washington State Senior Games

Another difficulty in attracting participants could also be the stereotype associated with the term senior, Kiley says. Even though the games are open to adults 50 years or older—there was even a 103-year-old shot putter one year—those in their 50s do not consider themselves seniors just yet. The average age of most participants is 62-63.

Of the 23 events offered at this year’s games, seniors can expect some new ones including rock climbing, power walking and trap shooting. Kiley says the board is “open to virtually everything” when it comes to event suggestions, but some might not be held if they cannot find a commissioner to run the event or find a venue to host it.

Because of the diversity of sports and the need for multiple venues to host the events, the events are held around the South Sound area. “We have to pay for most of the venues we use,” Kiley says, and the board strives to find the best venue possible to give the participants the best experience possible. He adds that “the venues like the idea of being part of the games.” As an example of the event sites this year, softball is held in at the Mason County Recreational Area, soccer at the Regional Athletic Complex in Lacey and shuffleboard at the Little Creek Casino in Shelton.

Athlete participating in bowling at the Washington State Senior Games

Photo courtesy of Washington State Senior Games

With the WSSG being an all-volunteer nonprofit, they depend upon outside funding to support the games. The majority of funding comes from the lodging tax collected in the cities of Olympia, Lacey and Tumwater. Kiley adds that over 30 businesses and governments— including the Nisqually Indian Tribe, Panorama, and Olympics West Retirement Inn—participate significantly to make the games a success. The athletes also support the games through their registration fee.

While it has been suggested to host the games elsewhere in Western Washington, Kiley says the board likes the idea that the games are held in the state capitol. The WSSG are a “significant event in a smaller area,” which means we can attract more attendees, he says.

Though the opening ceremony is July 26 at the Tumwater High School Stadium, several events are being held this weekend, including softball and ballroom dance. Of all the games, Kiley says that softball comprises of one-third (around 600) of the total participants. Track and field has the second highest number of participants at 200. For many of the events, there is an equal participation of the sexes, but “I would love to have more women’s softball and basketball teams,” Kiley says, which only have men teams.

WA State Senior Games - Javelin

Photo courtesy of Washington State Senior Games

With 2014 a qualifying year for the 2015 National Senior Games, Kiley expects there likely will be more participants competing. He says what makes the games unique is the sight of grandparents being cheered on by their families; it is “really a great reverse for the lives of most of us,” seeing the young folks actively cheering us—“it is very sobering and very delightful to see.”

Kiley recommends that those who are interested in participating should visit the WSSG website and take a look at the available events. He also adds that seniors who want to learn how to train should talk with our volunteers and they will be connected with others involved in the sport.

For Kiley, he played tennis in the games during the 2000s. When someone learned he was retired, they asked him to join as a treasurer, which led into the administration, he explains. With most of the board members still working, Kiley takes on many of the responsibilities in managing the day-to-day tasks of organizing the games. And though, at 75, he has every right to enjoy a work-free retirement, Kiley embraces the work because there is “a lot of satisfaction putting the games together, to give these committed senior men and women a chance to compete against their peers.”

Andrea Watts is content writer for SeniorHomes.com. In addition to covering senior living, she also writes on sustainable forestry and agriculture issues. Her writings have appeared in publications that include TimberWest, The Forestry Source and Acres U.S.A.