Bucks County Senior Games Encourage Community Activity
Karen Graffman has no trouble navigating the orienteering course at this week’s Bucks County Senior Games.
Since 1990, Graffman, 65, of Allentown, has been exposed to orienteering through Girl Scouts and has since competed in areas including New Jersey, New York and Maryland.
“It’s a great brain exercise. You have to be able to observe, you have to be able to problem solve, you have to be able to sequence, you have to be able to pay attention to detail,” Graffman said. “So as far as a beginner-level aging activity goes, it’s excellent.”
The orienteering was just one of dozens of events at the 39th annual Bucks County Senior Games, which kicked off June 1 and will run through Friday.
With events ranging from athletics and petanque to bowling and pickleball, the Senior Games encourage adults over 50 to be active and “raise awareness of the importance of staying physically and socially active at every stage and at every age of life.
The supervisor of care management for the Bucks County Area Agency on Aging and one of the organizers of the senior games events, Lisa Hall, said the games are a way to educate people on the agency and to encourage the health and well-being of seniors before they are in health crisis.
Hall said senior games are also a way to do something positive for the community and get rid of the negative connotations surrounding aging.
“It’s inspiring to see someone twice my age sprint in a time that I could never even have dreamed of doing, even though I was a student-athlete,” Hall said. “It makes me feel really encouraged about the aging process, that it doesn’t have to be a negative thing, and aging can be a positive.”
Mary Fank, secretary of the Delaware Valley Orienteering Association and one of the event organizers, described orienteering as “a course through the woods with a map and you find places along the way” or a “treasure hunt on foot”.
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Frank and her husband were responsible for coordinating the events, teaching participants how to do an orienteering once they arrived, and running the 2.2 km course at Tyler State Park in Newtown.
“It’s rewarding for me to watch people learn to trust themselves,” she said.
The course was considered a beginner level course, or blank course, with 10 check markers. Each participant received a map, compass and controller to track their time once they reached a new landmark.
Mixed doubles and singles began around 10 a.m. and 11 a.m., and participants made their way through Tyler State Park on dirt trails, through tall grass or in a stream to reach the orange markers.
Although Tuesday’s class is an entry-level class, Graffman said it was fun to fight against herself to save time without having to work too hard.
Having been her first year at the Bucks County Senior Games, Graffman said it was a great experience well organized with nice people.
Graffman said that as a physical therapist and working in a hospital where she sees people younger than her who are in poor physical condition, she knows she needs to maintain her strength, balance, coordination and endurance.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for seniors to see other seniors who are active and involved [and] maybe start challenging yourself in a new sport,” Graffman said.
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Even with two bad knees, Graffman said orienteering is an accessible sport for other people because it’s less tiring than running or running because the ground can absorb more shock.
“I think anyone with an interest in the outdoors and even the indoors (can) go out and socialize with people,” Graffman said. “We were all isolated by COVID for a while. It’s a great transition to what used to be your normal low-risk lifestyle habits. I think everyone should participate in this type of activity.
Although it was her second orienteering, Kristine Longshore, 54, of Doylestown and an ophthalmologist, completed the course in 32 minutes and 16 seconds.
Longshore said she also attended the pickleball clinic on June 8, but signed up for orienteering to defend her championship title from last year.
Although athletics is normally her event, Longshore said she finds any form of exercise to be beneficial to her and her health and is a big proponent of exercise.
Since the age of 13, Longshore has been racing competitively and is currently president of the Philadelphia Masters Track and Field Association.
“It’s quite fun. It increases your heart rate. I can eat whatever I want,” Longshore said. “And you feel good afterwards, there are endorphins from the exercise. I never want to look my age.
Dealing with the all-day stress of her job, Longshore said exercise was how she took care of herself and how she lowered her stress levels.
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The Bucks County Area Agency on Aging produces the Senior Games, in partnership with the Bucks County Department of Parks and Recreation, Bucks County Community College, Warrington Township and Township of Lower Makefield.
While planning the Senior Games events, Hall said the most difficult task she faced was getting the word out and dealing with people who don’t consider themselves to be seniors due to negative associations. that accompany this term.
Especially after COVID-19, Hall said seniors are excited to hang out, participate in activities, and interact with other seniors in friendly competition.
“We saw a number of people reunited with people they hadn’t seen in 20, 40, 50 years,” Hall said. “It was really cool to make those connections. And it gives people something to look forward to (and) something on their calendar.
As well as promoting health and well-being within the community, Hall said the purpose of the senior games was to try to “provide something for everyone” and bring people together across the county. .
With a $7 fee covering all sporting events, the Senior Games are meant to be accessible to everyone, according to Hall.
“I think sometimes we forget what’s right in our own backyards,” she said.