Aging doesn't mean you have to put away your competitive spirit, especially when it comes to sports. While mastering treadmills, yoga mats and elliptical machines can play an important role in your fitness routine, those exercises don't provide the level of adrenaline-induced exuberance that comes with competing.
Americans are accustomed to going head-to-head on the playing field, the court and in the gym starting at a young age. Increasingly, older adults are looking to continue that same type of competition as they age.
Terry Hennessy, 70, of Sacramento, California, has been playing senior softball since the 1990s. Now the chief executive officer of Senior Softball-USA, Hennessy says when he began playing in the league, the 70-year-old division was as old as it got. Now there are at least 15 teams for players 85 and older and recently one of those teams contacted Hennessy about launching a 90-year-old division, something the organization may do this year.
"What's happened is people have become more active as they get older and they are in better shape,” says Hennessy. “They want to be with their friends because they like the sport... So that gives them an incentive to stay in shape so they can keep playing."
Motivation comes with the territory
Athletic competition doesn't have to take place at an elite level to reap the benefits. A rec league or even pick-up games among friends can keep older athletes motivated, provide important social connections and make it fun.
A 2020 article in the Journal of Sport and Health Science found that “playing sport may contribute to the experience of successful aging for older adults.” The primary reasons included mental and physical health benefits, being social and developing a supportive community, being part of a team and opportunities for achievement and travel.