2019 National Senior Games Presented by Humana Boasts Record-High Athlete Attendance

national senior games

Photos courtesy of the National Senior Games

A record number of 50-plus athletes will be competing in 20 medal sports at the 2019 National Senior Games presented by Humana. The Games will take place in Albuquerque June 14-25 and are attracting 13,712 athletes. This represents an all-time high participation in the 32-year history of The Games, exceeding its past record of 12,000 athletes tallied in 2007 by 14%. Even before this increase, the Olympic-style event was the largest multisport event in the world for seniors.

The National Senior Games Association (NSGA) attributes much of this success to the efforts of the host organization to promote the destination’s unique cultural offerings, excellent sport venues and the city’s commitment to provide well-organized games to qualified athletes. “The host team aggressively marketed New Mexico by visiting many of our 54 qualifying games during 2018 with a welcoming spirit,” NSGA CEO Marc T. Riker said. “They also hosted our annual conference in Albuquerque and converted the state organizers into ambassadors to tell others these would be special Games.”

A strong local organizing committee is led by significant financial and logistical support from the City of Albuquerque, Visit Albuquerque, the State of New Mexico and the New Mexico Senior Olympics, along with a slate of sponsors and partners.

“We hope National Senior Games visitors will fall in love with our blue skies, pink sunsets and green chile,” City of Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller said. “From our cultural diversity to our one-of-a-kind cuisine, I am sure that they will enjoy everything the Duke City has to offer. We are grateful to be the host city that broke the record for participation and we look forward to welcoming these stellar athletes.”

Competitions for the Ages

Competitions are held in five-year age brackets from 50 to 100+. Five centenarians will participate, including Julia “Hurricane” Hawkins of Louisiana, who is returning at the age of 103 to attempt to break the women’s 100-meter dash world-record time she set in 2017. Hawkins has competition this year from Tennessean Hollyce Kirkland, who will also compete in swimming and power walk in the top age category.

Another super-senior golf matchup will bring together 100-year-olds Raymond Lokers from Michigan and Lindsay Tise from North Carolina for their third meeting. Wyoming trackster E. Gerald Meyer may be the most excited of this elite group – the retired chemistry professor was born in Albuquerque a century ago.

“Everyone always asks about the oldest athletes, and they are truly inspiring,” Riker commented. “But we have amazing athletes and examples of healthy, active aging at every level of The Games. All of our events are free for the public to attend, and we hope people of all ages in New Mexico will come out to experience the atmosphere of fitness, fun and fellowship that makes us so unique.”

Another factor in the growth of numbers is the addition of two new sports – power walk and triathlon relays, which added over 600 competitors to the total.

Full Slate of Events and Activities

There will be more special events and activities than previously offered, too. The traditional Flame Arrival Ceremony on Civic Plaza on Saturday, June 15 will feature the torch entry and cauldron lighting, followed by a stirring “Noche de Fuego” program celebrating the culture of the state in song and dance. The Celebration of Athletes, featuring the Parade of Athletes and other pageantry, will be held on June 19 in the Dreamstyle Arena at the University of New Mexico.

Through a new partnership with Growing Bolder, a leading multimedia platform advocating for successful aging, there will also be a special “Launch Pad to What’s Next LIVE” program at the historic KiMo Theater on Tuesday, June 18 featuring Growing Bolder founder and masters swimmer Marc Middleton, Olympic Gold Medalist swimmer Rowdy Gaines, journalist and endurance athlete Diana Nyad, and best-selling author Roger Landry. National Senior Games athletes will also be presented.

The hub of activity will be Villa Ernesto Ramos: The Village Health and Wellness Expo at the Albuquerque Convention Center, where several sports will also be contested. Two special theme days in The Village include Indian Day on June 17 and Olympic Day on June 20, which will feature an intergenerational program with visits by Olympians. The Village is dedicated to Ernesto Ramos, who founded New Mexico Senior Olympics 40 years ago and was a key player in the formation of National Senior Games.

Another major activity in The Village is the Senior Athlete Fitness Exam (SAFE) Area, which has been offered at The Games since 2011 and reflects NSGA’s mission to promote health and wellness. Athlete screenings in the ongoing program yield valuable metrics about highly active seniors, and the athletes receive helpful feedback that could avoid future injuries.

Humana has been the Presenting Sponsor of the National Senior Games since 2007 and stands with the organization to celebrate senior athletes who seek to achieve their best health. “Through our shared commitment with the National Senior Games, Humana has been able to highlight the importance of active aging and advocate for whole-person health across all age groups,” said Jody Bilney, Humana’s Chief Consumer Officer. “We are excited to have Albuquerque host the 2019 National Senior Games, where a record number of seniors will come together in support of each other and of their own personal health journeys.”

Additional National Sponsors include Zibrio, the balance company, (sponsoring the SAFE area) and Five Star Senior Living, who will have a booth in The Village.

People can follow the action on the online Games Daily news platform at NSGA.com/2019Daily that will begin coverage on June 14. On social media, NSGA is promoting a #RealSeniorMoments hashtag campaign to challenge the myths and biases about aging that persist in our society.

“While people are competing for medals, they are also pursuing their optimum health, which we say is your real personal best,” Riker emphasized. “It’s a lifelong journey that can begin for anyone, at any skill level, at any age. Even if people don’t ‘get into The Games’ we hope our examples inspire all aging adults to remain active for life.”

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