Haywood seniors are on top of their game

By Rachel Robles | Feb 07, 2014
Photo by: Donate photo SWING AWAY — Betty Henderson winds up for a swing on the golf course. The Senior Games will take place April 22 to May 20. Below, Ann Squirrel, right, was a 2013 N.C. state finalist for Visual Arts — Acrylics. She is pictured receiving recognition by Claire Carlton

Haywood County is home to a bustling retirement community with no shortage of activities for active seniors and retirees.

The Haywood County Recreation and Parks Department, in addition to their youth programs, proudly offers the Senior Games and the Happy Wanderers program to Haywood County’s older citizens.

North Carolina Senior Games is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing year-round health promotion and education for adults 55 years of age and better. As of this year, the Games are now open for individuals ages 50 and up.

In coordination with MedWest-Haywood Regional Health & Fitness Center, the Waynesville Recreation Center, and the towns of Clyde, Canton, Lake Junaluska and Maggie Valley, the Senior Games will be April 22 to May 20. All games are state-sanctioned, which means that individuals who place first through third are eligible to compete at the state level; those who qualify at the state level go on to compete at the national level.

There were 128 participants in last year’s Games. Ann Squirrel placed third at the state level in Visual Arts — Acrylics.

Competition is divided by age group and gender, with age brackets from 50-54 to 90-94.

“There are even 95-99 and 100+ divisions, but we don’t have anyone in those age groups yet,” said Daniel Taylor, recreation specialist.

For a registration fee of $10, seniors can compete in multiple events including pickleball, cornhole, discus, shot put, swimming, track and field, basketball, spin casting, football and softball throw, cycling, 5k race walk/run, horseshoes and a host of additional events. There are also “silver arts” which include heritage, literary, performing and visual arts; these include crochet, woodworking, poetry, dance, painting, music, and several additional events.

“Each event has a score sheet,” said Taylor. “Because these are all state-sanctioned, everything gets run through a computer.”

“The Senior Games are another way for folks to be active year round,” said Claire Carlton, director. “The Silver Arts division is great for folks who, for example, start painting later in life. It gives them an opportunity to meet other artists in the area and show off what they’ve learned. It also gives them an opportunity to compete at the state and national levels, if they choose.”

For more information about the Senior Games, visit http://www.ncseniorgames.org.

Not interested in competing? How about taking day trips to places like the Tennessee Aquarium and the Sunburst Trout Farm, or sailing away on a cruise to New England and Canada? The Happy Wanderers program might be for you.

Established in 2003, this program is for adults age 50 and above. Most activities are free and include day trips, tours, “out-to-brunch lunch,” movies and educational programs.

“[This program] really enhances the quality of life,” said Carlton.

The trip to the Sunburst Trout Farm will be March 18. Just down the road in Bethel, join the Happy Wanderers for a fish harvesting and a tour. The cost is $11.

On April 15, the group will travel to the Tennessee Aquarium. The cost is $50 and includes transportation and aquarium admission.

All trips depart from the Senior Resource Center at 81 Elmwood Way in Waynesville.

“One of the first things people do when they retire is to call our department to find out where to meet other seniors,” said Carlton. We offer opportunities for people from all walks of life to get together.”

For more information about the Senior Games or the Happy Wanderers program, call the recreation department at 452-6789.