COLUMBIA, S.C. — The Midlands Area Senior Games are back for the 35th year, encouraging senior citizens to get moving. Hosted by Richland County Recreation Commission, the event's goal is for seniors to build healthy habits while engaging with the community.
78-year-old Odessa White picked up a pickleball paddle for the first time today at day one of Senior Games.
"It was beautiful," she said. "Sweaty but good."
Lizzie Anderson also tried her hand. At 84-years-old, she had only played pickleball one other time, but she’s well-versed at other sports. In fact, she has attended all 34 other Senior Games.
"I want to keep moving. I don’t want to just sit and dry up in a rocking chair or whatever," Anderson told me about why she tries to stay active. "I want to keep moving."
That’s the goal of the event, according to Senior Sports Classic Board President Jim Testor.
"Too many people get old and they don’t want to be active anymore. This gives them an opportunity and the comradery is just wonderful," Testor explained.
Yvette McKenzie is on Senior Sports Classic's board of directors. From archery to pickleball and beyond, McKenzie told me she's competed at the national level in senior sports competitions.
On the local scale, McKenzie enjoys seeing the community come together to participate in a range of different activities during this week.
"The seniors that I’ve talked to in the past want to see this happen once a month," she shared. "It’s a necessity. Because one, it keeps you healthy."
Also, McKenzie said, it unites the senior community. Anderson agrees.
"It's different communities all around Columbia, Lexington and all about," Anderson said. "All of them participating and coming in, we’re meeting different ones, and it’s a good thing."
"It’s a lot of fun and the socialization and the fitness go hand-in-hand," Testor explained.
Testor says Senior Games evolve every year. Whether it’s introducing a new sport like pickleball and cornhole or bringing in a fashion show for the first time at this year’s closing ceremony, each year is different.
Anderson says she likes seeing different elements introduced with each new year.
"I think that’s a good idea," she said about the two new sports with this year's Senior Games. "Pickleball and the cornhole, oh that is really good! And I enjoy this. I enjoy it."
People 50 years and older can participate - no matter the experience level. Adairius Williams with Richland County Recreation Commission tells me he sees people use this event as preparation for the state senior games, which is happening next month.
"You can actually start here local as well to hone your skills, to get a little better, to get a little practice to get your competition level up," Williams said.
According to McKenzie, the cut-off date to register for the state games is Wednesday, Sept. 14, which is open to South Carolinians over 40. All experience levels are welcome.
Although it’s open to newbies and pros alike, the participation is strong with 75 seniors currently registered.
"These people are serious," Testor remarked. "They are very, very serious. And it gives you a reason to get up in the morning"
In addition to pickleball, seniors also played badminton. Bowling, golf, and track and field are scheduled through Friday.