Community event aims to promote active, healthy lifestyles for senior citizens
Hattie Stutts doesn’t need a magic potion to keep her young and healthy. The 79-year-old Charlottean attributes her active lifestyle and physical fitness to the North Carolina Senior Games.
The N.C. Senior Games is an organization aimed at promoting healthy lifestyles for people 55 and older. The Senior Games takes place in all of North Carolina’s 100 counties and encourages senior citizens to stay active through sports and other hobbies.
Stutts has participated in the games for 22 years, doing everything from competing in croquet and three-on-three basketball to jumping into a cheerleading squad encouraging other senior athletes.
Her basketball team has competed at the national level multiple times. She also has served as a N.C. Senior Games ambassador, speaking at church clubs, senior centers and nursing homes, educating others about the organization and how it promotes healthy lifestyles.
Stutts has even been known to tell people she meets in her doctor’s office about the Senior Games.
“A lot of people say they had never heard of (the Senior Games) before,” she said. “You’d be surprised at how many people write it down when I tell them.”
The Senior Games paid off for Stutts when she had knee replacement surgery in 2006. “I got along so well,” she said. “I felt like my playing with the Senior Games has really helped me go through that.”
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg division of the 2011 Senior Games began holding events April 18 and local competitions continue to June 4.
But participants begin training months in advance. Some teams will continue to play together throughout the year for fun and to hone their skills. “I still bowl on a senior league on Tuesday mornings,” she said. “I also do three-on-three basketball. We get together every week to practice.”
Seniors Games organizers spread events out over the course of seven weeks. However, a considerable number of the games occur on “Big Saturday,” which will take place May 14 at Alexander Graham Middle School.
“Big Saturday” is truly a big day for all those involved with the Senior Games, with seniors competing in 14 events from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“Little Saturday” follows “Big Saturday” on May 21 at Nevin Park, where four major events take place.
Stutts, who just recently won the silver medal for bowling doubles with her sister, is looking forward to both Saturdays. “Those days are some of the best days for the Senior Games,” she said. “I look forward to those every year.”
Other Senior Games events include a softball tournament, track and field competition, visual arts, bocce tournaments, swim meets, cycling, performing arts and golf.
Local coordinator H.C. “Woody” Woodward said the past two weeks of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Senior Games has been very successful. “It’s gone extremely well,” he said. “We’ve had great weather. This past Thursday, we had performing arts. We had 90 people, with 13 acts and about 250 people in the audience.”
This year, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg branch of the Senior Games will see 293 people participate. That’s slightly fewer than last year because, Woodward said, 2011 is not a qualifying year for the national competition. But he expects to see the number of competitors swell again in 2012.
Though the Senior Games can offer physical health and fitness, the organization also offers senior citizens a chance to have fun and meet new people. From the moment two members of her bowling team introduced her to the Senior Games back in 1989, Stutts knew the experience would be enjoyable.
“What appealed to me was everyone was having so much fun,” she said. “It’s about fun and fellowship. You make the best friends that will stay with you for life.”
If she could say one thing to her fellow senior citizens about the Senior Games, she’d tell them, “I don’t know what I would’ve done without (Senior Games). I’ve just kept on going and had so much fun and made so many friends. If people can come (just once), they’ll be so happy they did.”
Location: A. G. Middle School track
1800 Runnymede Lane, Charlotte
• 8 a.m.-2 p.m., registration tent open
• 8:30 a.m., fun walk
• 9 a.m., croquet
• 9-11 a.m., football throw
• 9-11 a.m., spin casting
• 9-11 a.m., basketball shoot
• 9-11 a.m., softball throw
• 9 a.m.-noon, field events
• 9 a.m., 1500-meter run
• 9:30 a.m., 1500-M race-walk
• 10 a.m., 400-meter dash
• 10:30 a.m., 5-kilometer race-walk
• 11 a.m., 100-meter dash
• Noon, 800-meter dash
• 12:30 p.m., 200-meter dash
Location: Nevin Park
6000 Statesville Road
• 8 a.m., 5-kilometer run
• 8:30 a.m., bocce
• 8:30 a.m., horseshoes
• 10 a.m., shuffleboard
Location: Park Road Park
5300 Closeburn Road
• 8 a.m., softball tournament