Veteran athletes practice ahead of National Veterans Golden Age Games
Competitors in the upcoming National Veterans Golden Age Games practiced with VA Central Iowa Health Care System staff at the MidAmerican Energy Company RecPlex in West Des Moines, Iowa, on April 20, 2023.
The National Veterans Golden Age Games is a national multi-event sports competition designed to improve the health and quality of life of older veterans in the United States. The games are held annually, and veterans can participate regardless of their ability level. The 2023 Games are scheduled to be held in Des Moines, Iowa from May 20-25, 2023.
Founded in 1985, the National Veterans Golden Age Games serves Veterans ages 55 years and older. Through its “Fitness for Life” motto, the Golden Age Games offers sports competitions and health education sessions to demonstrate the value that sports, wellness, and fitness provide to assist senior Veterans live an active and healthy lifestyle. The National Veterans Golden Age Games is a qualifying event for the National Senior Games.
Competitors in Des Moines have participated in multiple sessions hosted by VACIHCS recreational therapists preparing for the competition in sports like basketball, boccia, bowling, and more.
"This year we have focused on creating more practice opportunities for the veterans after feedback from last year at NVGAG," said McKenzie Bahl, VA Central Iowa Health Care System recreational therapist. "It has been a really neat experience to see them each grow in their sports and build confidence."
Bahl noted that over half of the team are novice athletes, never having competed in NVGAG before, and that some of them are also new to the VA health care system in general.
Yet, newcomers can expect to become part of a team with enthusiastic camaraderie.
"What people don’t always see is the strong sense of community this team has built; friendships, checking in on one another, cheering each other on, and being brave to be vulnerable and try something new," said Bahl. "The culture that has been built between all of the veterans and therapists involved is what makes these games so meaningful. It’s something [we] are really proud of and hope to see continue in years to come."