Above: Georgia archer Ed Brown at the National Senior Games. Photos courtesy of Georgia Golden Olympics.

Senior Olympics are one way for Georgia residents 50 and older to stay active and to foster healthy and competitive fun. Games and events take place on national and state levels but are also popular in a number of Atlanta metro counties. In 2019, games will be held in Gwinnett, Cherokee, Spalding and north Fulton counties.

Gwinnett Senior Golden Games

National Senior Games Gold medal winners Georgia Boys 60+ Team

“The Golden Games is not only an event where participants can win a gold, silver or bronze medal, but can meet new people and build lasting friendships. It’s also an opportunity to become active, which we encourage all of our seniors to do,” says Shirley Snow, volunteer for the 2019 Gwinnett Senior Golden Games.

Opening and closing awards ceremonies are a big draw for the Golden Games, which were started in 2000, according to Snow. This year she’s hoping not only to see more participants in the 50-to-60 age range but also to reach more than 400 registrants for 2019.

“We had 347 in 2018, so hopefully we can hit 400 in 2019,” she said. Opening ceremonies are scheduled for March 27 with closing celebrations to be held on May 8. Events will be held at the Bethesda Senior Center.

And the theme for this year? “Oldies But Goodies.”

Popular events for the Golden Games in Gwinnett include bocce ball, horseshoes, holey board, bowling and a football throw. Snow says they are considering new games but overall are hoping to “encourage more participants to try new events.”

Additional tournaments include card games, croquet, archery, golf and swimming to name a few.

Spalding County Senior Games

The Spalding County Senior Games is a testament to what an important part of the year the senior Olympics have become. 2019 marks the 27th anniversary with tournaments beginning on Monday, April 8 and concluding on Friday, May 3.

While events include golf, pickleball and walking for a half mile, one mile or two miles, the Spalding County Senior Center is also proud to emphasize exercising the brain as well as the body, according to Lauren C. Brown, Spalding County Senior Center Supervisor. In 2018, card games such as bridge and canasta were added, Brown said.

Spalding County residents compete for gold, silver and bronze medals in a number of events, but the most popular draws are pickleball, horseshoes, walking events, clock golf, bridge, canasta, billiards, Wii bowling and shuffleboard.

Brown anticipates even more participation in 2019 as “the center is currently maintaining around 1,400 active memberships.” Senior Center membership is required to participate, and registration opens Monday, Jan. 28.

The awards ceremony on Friday May 3 “is a main attraction and continues to grow” Brown said. And as the “Senior Games is one of the largest events of the year, made possible by community donations and support,” Brown added that she’s looking forward to a memorable 2019.

Already in the works for the concluding day are a basketball free throw, football toss, horseshoe toss, Frisbee toss, softball throw and bingo. Breakfast and lunch are also on the agenda, as is entertainment, and of course, the awards ceremony itself.

Fulton Golden Games

John Taylor of Atlanta

For the Fulton Golden Games, “more fun and camaraderie” is one of the goals for 2019 according to Kevin McDonald, Fulton Golden Games Coordinator. This is a big year for Fulton County, since it’s the 25th anniversary of the Senior Olympics; as a result, McDonald is expecting more than 500 participants. A collaborative effort by Johns Creek, Alpharetta, Sandy Springs, Roswell and Milton, opening ceremonies kick off on April 24 at Bell Memorial Park.

Events from past years have included track and field, bridge, billiards, Bocce ball, Wii bowling, swimming and more. McDonald notes that many athletes have won medals in multiple events. One of their oldest seniors is Pat Hillman, who at 96 competed in 2018 opening day events, bocce and swimming.

Ninety-two was a magic age for the Gwinnett Golden Games last year, as both the most senior male and female participants were that age. Snow adds that their youngest male athlete was 51 and their youngest female competitor was 50.

Cherokee County Senior Olympics

In Cherokee County, Senior Olympics events usually take place during the month of April; 2019 details and dates are still in the works.

Last year over 230 medals were given out to seniors ranging in age from 50 to 96, according to Diane Page, Treasurer for the Cherokee County Senior Olympics. Though Page says the top event is pickleball, 17 other games will be offered including Bocce ball, frisbee golf and basketball free throw, one-mile walk, billiards, Wii bowling, swimming and bowling.

“Our goal is to create awareness of the abilities and capabilities of seniors and to help promote, maintain and improve health awareness and an interest in lifetime sports, recreation and physical activity,” Page said.

State and National Senior Games

Georgia flag bearers in the National Senior Games Celebration of Athletes

County games are only part of the Senior Olympic fun. Georgia residents 50 and over will also have the opportunity will participate in the Georgia Golden Olympics on the state level. In 2018, this event was held in September in Warner Robins.

Although detailed plans for 2019 are still in the works, interested seniors can visit georgiagoldenolympics.org for more information.

The National Senior Games, which feature participants from all over the U.S., will take place in Albuquerque, N. M. from June 14 to June 25. According to the website, “the biennial competition for men and women 50 and over is the largest multi-sport event in the world for seniors.”

Georgia is one of the states that’s already eligible and approved to register athletes for 2019. A “non-profit organization dedicated to motivating active adults to lead a healthy lifestyle through the senior games movement,” the NSGA drew in over 10,000 senior athletes participating in over 20 different sports for 2018.

For More Info

Cherokee County Senior Olympics

When: in April, specific dates to be announced

More info: cherokeecountyseniorolympics.com; or email cherokeecso@yahoo.com.

Fulton Golden Games

When: April 24 through May 23

More info: johnscreekga.gov, Recreation & Parks page, click on ‘Seniors,’ then ‘Fulton Golden Games’; or email Kevin McDonald, kmcdonald@alpharetta.ga.us.

Gwinnett Senior Golden Games

When: March 27 through May 8

Application deadline: March 1

More info: gwinnettseniorgoldengames.org; or email gsgginfo@googlegroups.com; or contact Debbie Reid, 706-684-0065.

Spalding County Senior Games

When: April 8 through May 3

Registration opens: January 28

More info: spaldingparksandrec.com, click on ‘Senior Center’; or find ‘Spalding County Senior Games’ on Facebook.

Georgia Golden Olympics

Dates and details to be announced.

More info: georgiagoldenolympics.org

National Senior Games

When: June 14 through 25

Where: Albuquerque, N.M.

More info: nsga.com

Julie E. Bloemeke

Julie E. Bloemeke is a writer and poet based in metro Atlanta.