My First Visit to A Senior Center

I wanted to visit a senior center to see what they were about.  My neighbor’s 75 year old mother Janet is an active participant in the ballroom dancing program at West Cobb Senior Center so I decided that would be a good center to visit.   Janet is a traveler, takes cruises, collects antique dolls and is a dealer also, is a ballroom dancer and her home has many unique antiques which she has collected.  She is an interesting person so this Senior Center must be OK.  They have a ballroom dance practice from 1 to 4pm so I plan to be there at 1pm.

Even thought there are many senior centers close by to me,  I take the hour long trip from Johns Creek Georgia over through Roswell to Marietta down Whitlock Ave then out a long stretch of Dallas Hwy.  Right when my MapQuest says, there it is as I turn left in to the entrance of Cobb County Parks and Recreation campus.   The sign says West Cobb Senior Center as I turn in to a nearly full park lot facing a attractive lodge type building.   Nicely dress people are zooming in the lot and hurrying in to the building.  Must be the dancers.   I enter to an attractive large lobby with stack stone fireplace and people zooming by me to sign in.  The place is abuzz with activity.

A lady at the open administrative office spots me looking over the information table and introduces herself as Cristina, the Program Specialist.  I let Cristina know I am here to check out the center and meet Janet at the 1pm dance program.  I am early so Cristina gives me lots of information about the senior center activities.

There are about 18 people sitting around a large conference table in a room across the lobby from where we are talking and Cristina tells me that is a meeting of the Great Ideas Book Club.  Later I take a walk down the right wing of the building and see two more similar conference rooms with equal amounts of people sitting around the conference table.   These I find out later are the Woodcarvers Club and the Shutterbugs Club.   Another two rooms I spot gamers,  playing Mah Jongg and Scrabble.  Lots of mental stimulation going on today.

Christina tells me the West Cobb Senior Center is an active adult multi-purpose center open to anyone 55 or better.  You do not have to live in the country to use the center.  They have people ages 55 to 92 using the center.  It is well used, I must say.   Besides the activity in the center it is located in the Parks and Recreation area with walking trails and ball fields nearby.   In addition to dancing, the center has  two yoga classes that are fully attended and exercise programs to keep participate active physically.

At the end of the end of the right wing, Cristina tells me to visit the Billiards room which I do and see 5 tables in a nicely decorated room.  A group of 5 men are playing pool at one of the tables.

Christina hands me “The Leaflet” which lists all the programs and activities of the center is offering for the month and  I am astounded at the quality and the number.   Wellness seminars, trips, health screenings and tons of classes.  I see they have a trip to Atlanta’s historic Fox Theater planned.  These were equal or better than those offered in the Del Webb Active Adult Communities I have visited.   I am impressed.

It’s now 1pm so I head down the left wing of the building to a grand ballroom where I hope to see Janet.  There are nicely dressed dancers signing in and greeting each other with hugs.  It is a nice large comfortable room.   A man who must be the greeter comes over and introduces  himself and welcomes me.  He’s thinking I’m a dancer, but I tell him I was looking for Janet.  He says Janet usually gets there at a later time.  The sound equipment is now set up and the first few dancers are on the dance floor twirling to the music.  I watch for a few minutes and head back to say goodbye to Cristina.

On the drive back I am thinking it sure would be nice to have the West Cobb Senior Center close by to me.   My impression is way better than I had in mind before making this visit to a senior center.   I can see where Senior Centers could be and are an asset to anyone who uses them, encouraging us to be active both mentally and physically.  I am sure not all Senior Centers are alike and offer as much as this one did.  But still is shows me what is possible and changes my uninformed image of a Senior Center. I will check out the new Johns Creek Senior Center that is being built near me for sure and some other seniors center in Georgia.

Robert Fowler
SeniorCenterDirectory.com

Boomers Find Path to Senior Games via Senior Centers

When I started retiring less than 10 years ago, I would have never in my wildest dreams thought I would be competing at the National Senior Games. Yet, I just returned from that event where I competed in two race walking competitions. It is an experience I will remember the rest of my life.

My unexpected path to the National Senior Games as it turns out, is a common one shared by many people I have spoken with. It began with me, as others, at our local senior center.

A few years ago I discovered Park Place Adult Center here in my town Johns Creek GA and began walking with the Park Place Pacers.  The men’s group was only me and Don from Cleveland and Lamond from New Jersey. We walked about 3.2 miles through Newtown Park three times a week, sharing the news of the day and stories from our lives.

Then at the annual North Fulton Golden Games we were pitted against 4 or 5 other local senior centers in a day of competition which included a couple of walking races. I heard about how good some of the other walkers were and we began training a little.

At the North Fulton Golden Games a gentleman 10 years older than me beat me in the one half mile race by 20 yards!  I was puzzled. Upon researching I found out he was race walking, a technique that makes you more efficient so you can walk faster.

I learned that the upcoming 2014 state level competition called the Georgia Olympics had a competition in race walking.  I signed up for some instructions in race walking and made the trip down to Warner Robins for the state meet last Sept where I came in 2nd in my age group for the 1500 meter race walk.

That qualified me for the National Senior Games in St. Paul MN in July 2015, so I signed up for the 1500 meters and the 5K race walks and began training a couple of months ago. The competition at the National Senior Games is fierce with 1200 athletes coming from all over the country to compete. The heat from my 1500 meter race, for example, shows 20 men coming from 19 different states for that race, many of which have been there before.

The experiences were valuable and enjoyable all along the way. Nothing like walking with new friends at your local senior center.  Competition at the state level gets those juices flowing while still fun.  At the National Senior Games level you are competing with the best but you don’t have to be a pro to enjoy it,  if you can make it that far.

Competing at any of these levels you will have the fellowship with others and enjoy their company. Everyone is happy and excited to be there. It is motivating as well to see what some people can accomplish in their 50+ lives. The training and discipline at the sate and national level is amazing.

I would encourage anyone to get involved with their local Senior Center, Active Adult Center, Adult Recreation Center, whatever it is called, and give it a try. Your life will be better for it. You will get some activity, develop some new routines on your schedule, and make new friends while sharing those activities.

Robert Fowler, age 67

PS: I came in 8th place at the National Senior Games and got a certificate and an experience I will remember. Who knows, maybe I will be going to the next National Senior Games which will be in Birmingham AL in July 2017. Hope to see you there. Find your senior center.  Here are some pics I took at the National Senior Games in Minnesota.

national senior games winners

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

basketball at national senior games

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

womens competion at National Senior Games

Georgia Golden Olympics | Warner Robins GA

Georgia Golden Olympics
Warner Robins GA

This past week I went down to Warner Robins GA to the Georgia Golden Olympics games to participate in the 1500 meter race walk in hopes of qualifying for the National Senior Games in Minneapolis MN in July 2015.

The Georgia Golden Olympics are held every year in September down in the middle Georgia city of Warner Robins, home of Robins Airbase.

This year those who participate and come in at the top four positions qualify for the National Senior Games which are only held every other year. 2014 is the qualifying year at the state level for the 2015 National Senior Games.

We only spend Thursday PM and left Friday PM but did get to see several events.

On Thursday our first stop was the Warner Robins Senior Activity Center where we registered and saw the list of people who would be competing in my event on Friday. We got a T-shirt and other items in a welcome package.

Next we headed over to Robins High School’s McConnell-Talbert Stadium on nearby S. Davis Drive where a lot of the Track and Field events were being held.

Track and Fields Events
Track and Fields Events

We spent some time watching the high jump where both male and female contests had a friendly but competitive match. It amazed me how high they were jumping.  I saw more than a few ace bandages and ice packs.

High Jumpers at Georgia Golden Olympics
High Jumpers at Georgia Golden Olympics

I got to check out the impressive track where I would be race walking the next day.

On Friday morning I got up early and was one of the first ones to arrive at the stadium for Jim Norvill’s race walking seminar.

Jim Norvill Race Walk Clinc
Jim Norvill Race Walk Clinc

I stayed to watch and photograph the 5K race walk. There were about 11 contestants ranging from seasoned veterans to a new comer or two.

5K Race Walk - Georgia Golden Olympics
5K Race Walk – Georgia Golden Olympics

These race walkers really put a lot in to the contest which is about 3.1 miles or little over 12 times around the track. Several of the same race walkers would be coming back at 1pm for the 1500 meter race walk that I had signed up for.

Race Walkers pass by Judge Jim Norvill
Race Walkers pass by Judge Jim Norvill

I stopped by the Senior Activity Center again to check things out and met Ms. Vicki Pilgrim who was directing these games and doing an excellent job keeping track of so many things going on with the events and people.

After picking up my wife Mary Ann, checking out of the Hampton Inn on Watson Blvd and getting a bite to eat,  we headed over to the stadium to watch the 100 meter dash. I ran in to a fellow I had met back in Alpharetta training at the Old Milton High School.  He is 80 years old and had won the 50 meter dash the day before and I watched him win the gold in the 100 meter race too.  He did it faster than I could have and I am only a baby at age 68. He’s the gentleman at the top right in while shirt in the photo below.

100 Meters Race at Georgia Senior Games
100 Meters Race at Georgia Senior Games

Mary Ann’s brother Mike and wife Diane were nice enough to come watch me compete at 1pm in the 1500 race walk. I was uncertain as to how it would be going since I had only been race walking for two months and had hurt my hip a week before.  I did good and came in second in my age group winning the silver and qualifying myself for the National Senior Games. I think I may just make the trip to Minnesota for the National’s next year.

Robert Fowler Silver Medal 1500M Race Walk
Robert Fowler Silver Medal 1500M Race Walk

While getting my medal engraved back at the senior activity center I stood in line with other medal winners and we shared our excitement and stories.  One lady (pictured below) had won several medals in shot put, discuss, race walking and others and is also planning on going to the nationals.

Medal winner Georgia Golden Olympics
Medal winner Georgia Golden Olympics

 

“Others won medals in swimming, cycling, golf, pickleball, basketball, table tennis and horseshoes.”

We made the ride back to Atlanta tired but happy that I had won a medal. I would have loved to stay longer and participated in and viewed more of the competitions. Maybe next year I will stay two nights instead of one.

The registration is not open yet for the Nationals but when they do open this Fall, I will be planning my trip. This will be a great incentive for me to continue my race walking hobby and really improve my technique,  speed and endurance.  I plan to enter the 1500 meters and the 5K race walks. They are on two consecutive days so that will work out fine.

I have been to Minneapolis before to attend a conference but my wife never has been there. Attending the Nationals will be a good excuse to have a vacation getaway for us.

For more information on the National’s, visit their web site at National Senior Games Association.  For more information on Race Walking, visit Jim Norvill’s excellent site eRaceWalk.com.

Boomers Participate in Senior Games

1500M medal winners all categories
1500M medal winners all categories