Michigan Senior Olympics celebrates 35 years

Public invited to opening ceremony Aug. 8 in Municipal Park

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published July 30, 2014

 Glenn Geda and David Sabino take a rest after winning the gold in the men’s doubles pickleball tournament during the 2013 Summer Games.

Glenn Geda and David Sabino take a rest after winning the gold in the men’s doubles pickleball tournament during the 2013 Summer Games.

ROCHESTER — Seniors from across the state are gearing up to compete in the 2014 Michigan Senior Olympics, which will be held Aug. 6-17 and 23-24 at various locations throughout Oakland County.

The Michigan Senior Olympics is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year and invites the public to an opening ceremony at 7 p.m. Aug. 8 in Rochester Municipal Park. The free event will include a lighting of the torch ceremony, free ice cream and entertainment, as well as an appearance by MSO Honorary Chair and NFL Hall of Famer Charlie Sanders.

“We just want people to know about the senior olympics and that we are here in the community,” said Michigan Senior Olympics Executive Director Becky Ridky.

Ridkey expects approximately 1,000 participants, ages 50 and older, to compete in the Summer Games this year, which happens to be a year they can also qualify to attend the National Senior Olympics in Minnesota in 2015.

“Going to nationals is really a big deal for the seniors,” Ridkey explained. “During a nonqualifying year, we have around 600, and during a qualifier, we’d have 1,000.”

This year’s MSO Summer Games includes events such as archery, badminton, basketball, billiards, bocce ball, bowling, cycling, dancesport, fishing, golf, geocaching, horseshoes, kayaking, 5k, 10k, pickleball, powerlifting, racewalk, racquetball, shuffleboard, softball, swimming, table tennis, tennis, triathlon, volleyball, and track and field.

While seniors participating in the Summer Games had to register by July 16, Ridkey said there is still a lot of work to be done to prepare and run the games — which she said couldn’t be done without the help of volunteers and sponsors.

The Michigan Senior Olympics is currently searching for volunteers of all ages to assist before and during this year’s events.

“We use around 400 volunteers to make our games a success,” Ridkey explained. “Everything is very easy. A lot of it is checking people in, scorekeeping for some of the sports, and general assistance. Like for the 5k and 10k and the triathlon, we need a lot of people to help stand out on the course and direct people where to go, and pass out water and that sort of thing.”

Volunteering is a great way to get involved, Ridky said. But that’s not all people will take away from the experience.

“It’s inspiring to see these athletes out there. They train all year ’round. It’s exciting,” she said.

The MSO is an example of how things are changing with the over-50 population, according to MSO pickleball coordinator Marilyn Holladay.

“We are probably more active than the same age group 20-30 years ago — the idea of competing was probably not very common at that point for older people,” she said. “Now I think that, with things like the Senior Olympics and sports like pickleball, people are finding that they can stay active, which means stay healthier, and at the same time, have some competition. It’s a good feeling when you end up with a medal that you can show off to your grandkids, neighbors and whoever.”

The Michigan Senior Olympics also relies strongly upon sponsors, Ridky added. This year’s major sponsors are Pomeroy Living, Boulevard Health Center, Cherrywood Nursing and Living Center, the Older Persons’ Commission, Oakland County Parks and Recreation and Oakland University, but she said there are lots of different sponsorship opportunities still available.

The Michigan Senior Olympics is a nonprofit organization that aims to enhance the quality of life for those over 50 by providing and developing programs in physical fitness and nutrition, while enhancing mental strength and sports skills.

For more information, to volunteer or to become a sponsor for the upcoming games, visit www.michiganseniorolympics.org or call (248) 608-0252.