On Friday, February 27, the 2015 Senior Games were held at the Salt River Community Building. Seniors from various Native American communities traveled to the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community to participate in a day’s worth of fun and exercise. Approximately 16 teams traveled to SRPMIC in hopes of taking home a trophy and bragging rights.
“The Senior Games is an event where seniors can socialize with other Indian tribes in Arizona, old and new friends, relatives and colleagues. It’s good for the seniors to talk to other [people] their age. This is also for them to compete against each other while having fun. It’s not all about getting a medal or an award,” said Rhonda Johnson, Senior Services recreation coordinator I.
SRPMIC Vice-President Martin Harvier welcomed all those in attendance with an opening prayer and words of encouragement. Teams of seniors came from the Gila River Indian Community, Ak-Chin Indian Community, Tohono O’odham Nation, Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation and the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community.
The SRPMIC teams were the Salt River Lightning (chair volleyball), Salt River Thunder (chair volleyball) and the Senior Steppers (walking relay). Individual Community members also had the chance to participate in various competitions.
A limit of 16 teams participated in chair volleyball, which is the most anticipated and competitive game. Teams prepare months in advance in hopes of winning the championship. Unfortunately, neither SRPMIC teams made it to the championship this year.
“We’ve been winning second place and third place at other chair volleyball games. Hopefully this time we win the championship. We just try our best. As a team, we communicate with each other. We look forward to coming here and to [attending] tournaments all over,” said Valencia Francisco of the Gila River Mustangs, the winning team in chair volleyball.
SRPMIC President Delbert Ray, Sr. attended some of the chair volleyball games, showing his support to the seniors participating.
Shortly after chair volleyball concluded, other team games were the oompa loompa and a walking relay. The oompa loompa game requires two seniors to carry an oversized beach ball across the basketball court. Each senior uses both hands to carefully hold the beach ball over their heads, without dropping it. The fastest time wins. The walking relay requires seniors to do a baton-style relay race, only walking. Each walker moves as fast as they can across to the opposite end of the court. The next walker retrieves the baton, and the race continues until all six walkers on each team are finished. Unfortunately, the Senior Steppers did not place in this event. Both the oompa loompa and the walking relay brought everyone in the Community Building to their feet with cheers.
After the team competitions were done, participants and visitors enjoyed lunch and entertainment before the individual and adaptive competitions started. The individual games included the rubber chicken throw, obstacle course and basketball throw, and the adaptive games included stacking cups for time, basketball throw, paper crunch and a beanbag toss. Competitors aimed for best overall time, most points or farthest distance.
All participants mingled, laughed and enjoyed each other’s company. “The Senior Games also lets the seniors know that they’re not alone; it helps them build their self-esteem,” said Johnson. “They can be active instead of just sitting at home. This lets them know that they can still do things, they can still try new things. Some of them might just watch this year, but they might think, ‘I’m going to do that next year.’ It’s something that they look forward to.”
As the competitions came to an end, awards were given out to all winners. While not every senior was an official winner, everyone was deemed a winner for taking the initiative to be healthier and to have fun.
For more information about the 2015 Senior Games, call Senior Services at (480) 362-6350.