Hundreds of senior soldiers are in Detroit this week for the National Veterans Golden Age Games.
Carmen Schiavoni, 92, is there and has been going to the games since 2003. Schiavoni was a navigator on a B-17 Flying Fortress running missions over Germany during WWII.
Also participating is super motivated Marine Corps Veteran John Martinez, 2014 recipient of the George Gangi Inspiration Award, the top award at the Golden Age Games. He is in Detroit with the team from Fresno, California.
Since 1990, the Golden Age Games has chosen one participant each year as the “Most Inspirational” person to compete. That Veteran exhibits excellent qualities of fitness, sportsmanship and competitive skill. In 1995, the award was renamed to honor the late George Gangi, a participant at the Games in Dallas that year.
The games, now in the 30th year, offer sports and recreational competitive events for Veterans 55 years of age and older. It is the largest sports and recreation competition for this age group of military Veterans in the world and continue to serve as a showcase for the rehabilitation value that wellness and fitness provide in the lives of older Americans.
The National Veterans Golden Age Games is 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 VA challenges and encourages senior Veterans to be proactive in embracing a healthier lifestyle.
“The games help our Veterans maintain active and healthy lifestyles, and provide them the unique camaraderie of being surrounded by fellow Veterans who share common bonds of service,” said Carla Carmichael, director, National Veterans Golden Age Games. “Through sports and exercise programs and healthy living initiatives, VA continues a long history of providing Veterans with opportunities to stay active, healthy and involved.”
Events at the games include:
- Air Rifle
- Table Tennis
- Track and Field
A “fountain of youth” for America’s rapidly aging Veteran population, the games provide a multi-event sports and therapeutic recreation program for eligible Veterans receiving care at any VA medical facility. They reflect VA’s mission – to provide quality programs and health care for older Veteran population. Over the years, competitive events at the Golden Age Games have been adapted to meet specific needs of the participants.
There are separate age groups and gender divisions and because many Veterans also face medical challenges, events were added for those who use wheelchairs and those who have visual impairments. To accommodate the varying degrees of physical conditioning, motor and cognitive skills of the participants, basic competition rules were adapted. The modification of rules and use of adaptive equipment in many events allow non-ambulatory and visually impaired Veterans to participate.
This has made the National Veterans Golden Age Games a truly adaptive therapeutic sports competition that has become a model for other local, state and national senior sports events. And one Veteran describes it, “It’s a total wellness program. You get physical exercise, mental exercise and I think spiritual in the sense of the camaraderie and fellowship with your teammates. I think it keeps a lot guys out of the hospital.”