Ellen Hudson, Buck Steiner, Millie Morris and Lou Papke play a game of bridge at Peninsula Center Mall on Thursday afternoon as part of the second annual Senior Olympic Games. The games run through Saturday.
Photo by Joseph Robertia
Kenai Peninsula residents in their "golden years" are getting a chance to get a gold medal this weekend during the second annual Senior Olympic Games.
"We try to keep seniors as active as we can," said Jan Fena, director of the Soldotna Senior Citizens Center, one of the organizing institutions for the event.
The senior centers in Kenai, Nikiski, Sterling and Homer also serve as co-hosts for the games.
Seniors can compete in a variety of events that began Thursday and continue through Saturday. The only requirement to compete is that people be 50 years of age or older.
"We have some games designed with fitness and skill in mind," Fena said. These games include bowling, a basketball toss, shuffleboard and a walk-a-thon.
"We also have other games that are less ambulatory," she added.
These games include pool, bridge, dominoes, darts, poker, cribbage, pinochle and tripoly.
"Pinochle is the event with the biggest sign-up, but the pool tournament is really popular, too, and we have some very good senior pool players on the peninsula," she said.
Fena said the games are about more than just having fun.
"The point is to have seniors, or to get seniors, out during the winter to interact and meet other seniors around the peninsula so they can participate in activities which are important to providing for their health and well being," Fena said.
Last year, the games were held at the Peninsula Center Mall and roughly 60 seniors participated in the two-day event.
"We had people come from Nikiski, Homer and all over," Fena said.
This year, with the games being dispersed between Soldotna and Kenai, and with an additional day of games added, Fena said she is expecting more seniors.
"We started getting calls at Christmas from people inquiring if we were going to do it again. It's bigger, so we're expecting even more people to attend," she said.
Lou Papke of Soldotna participated in the bridge tournament Thursday and said he enjoyed competing in the games.
"I like socializing with the elderly," he said.
Papke also thought the games were a good idea because of the social network they provide.
"The games are a good idea. This bridge group plays two to three times a week, but we always encourage new people to come," he said.
Over at the domino table, a group of older women were getting cutthroat with their competition.
"I think the games are wonderful. It's good for seniors to get out and meet seniors and compete with them. Just because you get old doesn't mean you get tired of competing," said Mary Jean Ivy of Nikiski.
Gold, silver and bronze medals will be awarded to the victors of each event during a ceremony at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the Peninsula Center Mall in Soldotna.
The ceremony will be followed by a no-host dinner at Ginger's in the mall in which participants are asked to dress in attire from the 1950s. There also will be a dance contest following the dinner.
Fena said she hopes the games continue to grow each year.
"We want the event to grow to include seniors from the whole peninsula, until each community eventually has their own Senior Olympics," she said.
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