Bucks County Senior Games encourages people at any stage of life to be active and healthy

·6 min read

Karen Graffman has no trouble navigating the orienteering course during this week's Bucks County Senior Games.

Since 1990, Graffman, 65, of Allentown, has been exposed to orienteering through the Girl Scouts and has since competed in competitions in areas like 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 pay attention to detail,” said Graffman. “So, as far as an aging activity at the beginner level, it's excellent.”

Orienteering was just one of dozens of events at the 39th annual Bucks County Senior Games, which began June 1 and runs through Friday.

Karen Graffman, left, and Scott Bennett work to find their next checkpoint in orienteering as a part of Bucks County Senior Games at Tyler State Park in Newtown on Tuesday, June 14, 2022.
Karen Graffman, left, and Scott Bennett work to find their next checkpoint in orienteering as a part of Bucks County Senior Games at Tyler State Park in Newtown on Tuesday, June 14, 2022.

With events ranging from track and bocce to bowling and pickleball, the Senior Games encourage adults over 50 to be active and “bring awareness to the importance of staying physically and socially active at every stage and age of life.”

Care management supervisor for the Bucks County Area Agency on Aging and one of the organizers of the senior games events, Lisa Hall, said these games are a way to let people know more about the agency, and to encourage health and wellness among seniors before they are in a health crisis.

Hall said the senior games also are a way to do something positive for the community and to get rid of the negative connotations surrounding aging.

“It's inspiring to see somebody twice my age run a sprint, in a time that I could never even dream of making, despite having been a student athlete,” said Hall. “That just makes me feel really encouraged about the aging process, that it doesn't have to be a negative thing, and aging can be positive.”

Mary Fank, secretary of the Delaware Valley Orienteering Association and one of the organizers of the event, described orienteering as “cross country through the woods with a map and you're finding locations along the way” or a “treasure hunt on foot.”

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Peter Marion of Yardley, left, and Marianne Router of Feasterville navigates the trail in orienteering as a part of Bucks County Senior Games at Tyler State Park in Newtown on Tuesday, June 14, 2022.
Peter Marion of Yardley, left, and Marianne Router of Feasterville navigates the trail in orienteering as a part of Bucks County Senior Games at Tyler State Park in Newtown on Tuesday, June 14, 2022.

Frank and her husband were in charge of coordinating events, teaching participants how to orienteer once they arrived and making the 2.2-km course at Tyler State Park in Newtown.

“It's rewarding for me to see people learn confidence in themselves,” she said.

The course was considered to be a beginner-level course, or a white course, with 10 control markers. Every participant was given a map, a compass and a finger stick to keep track of their times once they reached a new marker.

Mixed doubles and singles began around 10 a.m. and 11 a.m., and the participants navigated their way through Tyler State Park on dirt trails, through tall grass or in a creek to reach the orange markers.

Despite Tuesday's course being an entry level course, Graffman said it’s fun competing against herself for time while not having to work too hard.

Having been her first year participating in the Bucks County Senior Games, Graffman said it was an excellent experience that was well-organized with nice people.

Graffman said being a physical therapist and working in a hospital where she sees people who are younger than her that 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 participating [and] maybe start challenging themselves in a new sport,” Graffman said.

Karen Graffman of Allentown runs while orienteering as a part of Bucks County Senior Games at Tyler State Park in Newtown on Tuesday, June 14, 2022.
Karen Graffman of Allentown runs while orienteering as a part of Bucks County Senior Games at Tyler State Park in Newtown on Tuesday, June 14, 2022.

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Even with two bad knees, Graffman said orienteering is a sport that’s accessible for other people since it’s less strenuous than race walking or running because the ground can absorb more of the shock.

“I think everybody who has an interest in the outdoors and even the indoors (can) get out and socialize with people,” said Graffman. “We've all been isolated by COVID for a while. This is a great segue back into maybe what used to be your normal life patterns at low risk. I think everybody should participate in this type of activity.”

Despite this being her second time orienteering ever, Kristine Longshore, 54, of Doylestown and an ophthalmologist, completed the course in 32 minutes and 16 seconds.

Longshore said she also participated in the pickleball clinic on June 8, but signed up for orienteering to defend her championship title from last year.

Kristine Longshore of Doylestown, 54, participates in orienteering as a part of Bucks County Senior Games at Tyler State Park in Newtown on Tuesday, June 14, 2022.
Kristine Longshore of Doylestown, 54, participates in orienteering as a part of Bucks County Senior Games at Tyler State Park in Newtown on Tuesday, June 14, 2022.

Though track and field is normally her event, Longshore said she finds any form of exercise to be beneficial for her and her health and she’s a big proponent of exercise.

Since age 13, Longshore has been running competitively and she currently sits as the president of the Philadelphia Masters Track and Field Association.

“It's kind of fun. It gets your heart rate up. I can eat whatever I want,” said Longshore. “And you feel good after, there's endorphins from exercise. I don't want to look my age ever.”

Dealing with stress all day long from her job, Longshore said exercising is how she takes care of herself and how she reduces her stress levels.

William Goppoeld receives a medal for participating in orienteering with his grandma as a part of Bucks County Senior Games at Tyler State Park in Newtown on Tuesday, June 14, 2022.
William Goppoeld receives a medal for participating in orienteering with his grandma as a part of Bucks County Senior Games at Tyler State Park in Newtown on Tuesday, June 14, 2022.

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The Bucks County Area Agency on Aging produces the Senior Games, in partnership with Bucks County Department of Parks and Recreation, Bucks County Community College, Warrington Township and Lower Makefield Township.

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 senior citizens due to the negative associations that accompany that term.

Especially after COVID-19, Hall said the seniors are excited to get outdoors, participate in activities and interact with the other seniors during friendly competition.

“We've seen a number of people reunited with people they hadn't seen in 20, 40, 50 years,” said Hall. “That’s been really cool to build those connections. And it gives people something to look forward to (and) something on their calendar.”

In addition to promoting health and wellness among the community, Hall said the purpose of the senior games is to try to “provide something for everyone” and bring people across the county together.

With a $7 fee covering all sporting events, the Senior Games are meant to be accessible to anybody, according to Hall.

“I think sometimes we forget what's right in our own backyards,” she said.

This article originally appeared on Bucks County Courier Times: Bucks County Senior Games promotes activeness within community