“Life begins at 55” goes the expression, and for 26 years veterans have been proving it by challenging themselves physically at the National Veterans Golden Age Games. Veterans 55 and older participate, and the competition is the largest for this age group of military veterans in the world. This year, the events are scheduled for May 26 to 31 in Hawaii.
The Golden Age Games, a series of sports and recreational competitive events, grew out of the dedication of the Department of Veterans Affairs to health and fitness helping veterans live longer, healthier lives. VA hospitals and nursing home units across the nation held their own competitive events, and in 1985 the first Golden Games took place in Albany, Ga., with 115 vets participating from VA medical facilities across the nation.
Participating veterans compete in a variety of games. From bowling, shuffleboard, checkers and golf, to swimming, cycling, outrigger canoeing and air rifle competitions, there’s something to appeal to everyone.
The games have evolved over time, and now feature separate age groups and gender divisions, and accommodate veterans in wheelchairs or with visual impairments. In recent years, more and more Vietnam War veterans have participated, and now make up the largest group of competitors by period of service. From 115 participants in 1985, the games saw more than 700 in 2010.
Veterans receiving care at any VA facility may participate in this motivating, therapeutic competition. It is the only national seniors’ program designed to improve the quality of life of older veterans. In this way the games reflect the VA’s commitment to providing programs and health care for aging veterans.