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Veterans Health Administration


Senior Veterans Going for the Gold — One More Time

A senior man in a swimming pool smiles

Recreation therapy fills a special need in the lives of older patients.

by Hans Petersen, VA Staff Writer
Monday, June 30, 2014

The 2014 National Veterans Golden Age Games will take place June 28-July 2 in Fayetteville, Arkansas, at the foothills of the Ozark Mountains on the campus of the University of Arkansas.

It’s the premier senior adaptive rehabilitation program in the United States and the only national multi-event sports and recreational seniors’ competition program designed to improve the quality of life for all older Veterans, including those with a wide range of abilities and disabilities.

The competitive events include air rifle, bowling, cycling, field (discus, shot, javelin), golf, horseshoes, mind sports (checkers, dominoes), nine-ball, shuffleboard, swimming, table tennis and track, with demonstration sport badminton.

A senior man throws a horse shoe

James McDonough, 89, pitches horseshoes at the Golden Age Games.

James McDonough of Denver is a Veteran of the Coast Guard and brought soldiers ashore during the Normandy landings (D-Day) June 6, 1944. He is extremely active and prepares for the games year round. He will be participating in javelin, horseshoes, bowling, and table tennis this year. He will be 89 on June 24.

According to Carla Carmichael, “The National Veteran Golden Age Games provide opportunities for Veterans to compete in sports and recreational events. An active lifestyle is critical to promoting health and independence while preventing illness or disability and prolonging quality of life.”

National Director of the Golden Age Games, Carmichael added, “Recreational and other rehab therapists at local medical centers work with the Veteran to participate based on rehabilitative goals established individually.”

Sports and fitness are vital ingredients of VA’s National Rehabilitation Special Events. Physical activity and friendly competition engage the mind as well as the body and recreation therapy fills a special need in the lives of older patients at VA health centers across the country. VA research and clinical experience verify that physical activity is particularly important to the health, recovery and overall quality of life for older people.

 No matter what, make the effort. I can make the effort. 

A few of the “stars” from the 2013 games

Robert “Sparky” Sparkes, a 94 year-old World War II U.S. Army Air Corps Veteran, works out and trains year-round, hiked the Appalachian Trail between Georgia to Maine three times since the age of 60 and inspires teammates daily with a positive attitude and will to compete.

Army Veteran Gael Keshoemaker experienced a stroke two years ago and faced speech and other significant physical challenges. In 2013, she participated in bowling as well as shuffleboard, table tennis and horseshoes. Her motto is, “No matter what, make the effort. I can make the effort.”

Dale Hosler, 83-year old Korean War Army Veteran, enjoys living a healthy lifestyle. He works out at least three times a week lifting weights and using cardio equipment and focuses on conditioning and strength training. “I look forward to it all year so I’m ready to participate.”

A woman in a wheelchair bowls

Judy Ruiz bowling at the Golden Age Games

Judy Ruiz, Marine Corps Veteran, lost her ability to work as a result of multiple sclerosis. She previously did not participate in sports but now feels that because of them, she has more hand and eye coordination, physical strength and range of motion. “Rehabilitative sports are great physically, mentally and socially. It’s good for the mind, body and soul.”

Read their stories (Inspiring Stories on the bottom of the page) and more about The National Veterans Golden Age Games.