Wednesday, 13 March 2019 21:06

Richmond County Senior Games kick off Thursday at Hamlet center

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Participants in the Richmond County Senior Games play chair volleyball during an event last year. Participants in the Richmond County Senior Games play chair volleyball during an event last year. Contributed photo

HAMLET — Although Richmond County's 29th annual Senior Games won't officially begin until April 29  and run until May 13  the kick-off event will take place beginning at 2 p.m. Thursday at the Hamlet Senior Center.

Terry Mercer, co-coordinator of the senior games along with Pete Wheeler, described the games as a network of 53 local groups in North Carolina  the largest set of participants in the United States  comprised of adults age 50 and older.

"It's just to get activities together for adults so that not only can we socialize with each other but stay healthy, as well," said Mercer. "As we get older, we sometimes forget how to play, so this helps us remember how to play and stay healthy."

Mercer has a special connection to the senior games, watching her mom and dad participate when they retired, and her children growing up following them to the performing arts which is part of the Silver Arts events.

"I've kinda had that contact for a long time," she said. "That was one of the desires that I had. I'm gonna retire early enough so I can play with my mom and dad. My mom passed, but my dad is still active so we participate in the games together."

According to Mercer, those participating will gather together at the senior center and have an informal meeting to catch everyone up on what will take place. If anything new is happening with the games, that will also be discussed and calendars and registration forms will be passed out. Dates on which the forms can be turned in, as well as where they can be turned in, will also be on the docket.

"We have light refreshments, and we just kind of socialize with one another and just talk about the games," said Mercer. "We also do a slideshow to show people what fun we had last year. If we have some new folks, we try to show them what they can participate in. We also have some little things before to show them how to play the games. Everything that we do is not difficult. Everybody participates in their own age group."

She used an example of a blind gentleman in the past who participated in croquet, as well as some people with arthritis who play horseshoes with lighter shoes to make it less strenuous.

"We make it so everybody can participate. The handicapped are welcome, as well," she said.

As for the events themselves, they literally run the gauntlet beginning with archery, basketball shooting, billiards, bocce ball, bowling, corn hole, croquet, cycling, track and field, the long jump and broad jump, golf, different walking events and shuffleboard. There is also a women's softball team, swimming, table tennis, regular tennis and an interesting game called pickleball. Mercer described it as similar to table tennis but with a smaller ball that bounces differently, a smaller net, and a table that's closer to the ground so there is less running involved.

"We have a great team that plays pickleball every Tuesday at Memorial Park in Hamlet," she said.

There are also games that are not sanctioned, meaning the state doesn't put them on, thus no moving on to the state or national events. Those include chair volleyball, board games such as Scrabble and checkers and card games like Pinochle and contract rummy.

"We try to have things that everybody can do," said Mercer. "Even those that aren't athletic."

Mercer said participation in the senior games has gone up each year since the event began, with 207 involved last year.

"We were real excited when we finally got to 200. The year before (2017) we had 200, too," she said. "We're hoping that we can get up to 220 or 225 this year. I'm trying to tell everybody we want 250. If you ask, we might have that many."

The Silver Arts — which is separate from the senior games and includes heritage arts, literary arts, performing arts and visual arts  will begin on Monday, May 6 and is just as competitive. Susan Sellers is the coordinator each year for these events.

Mercer broke down each set of events, saying that heritage arts is made up of sewing, basket weaving, knitting, needle lace, China painting and quilting. Visual arts includes things such as acrylics and pastels for painting, photography and mixed media. The literary arts has essays and life-experience writing, short stories and poems, while performing arts is comedy and drama acts, dancing line dancing specifically — as well as instrumental and vocal performances. It has also included cheerleading in the past.

"Our games are open, meaning anybody from any of the counties in North Carolina can participate in our games," Mercer said. "We may have cheerleaders from Scotland County compete."

Anyone who places in first, second or third in their categories at the local level, with the exception of performing arts, can then move on to the state events, which will be held in Raleigh and the surrounding area at the end of September. Those specific dates can be found online at www.northcarolinaseniorgames.org.

On the national level, this year's games will take place in Albuquerque, New Mexico, but are only played every other year.

Mercer talked about Ida Mae Malloy and Pat Clemmons, two seniors who participate and perform well every year at nationals in discus and shot put and track and field, respectively, but will take this year off due to the long distance.

Mercer, Wheeler and Sellars are always looking for volunteers, and anyone interested in helping out can contact the Hamlet Senior Center at 910-582-7985 and simply ask, "How do I volunteer?"