Lori Gullivan retired at just 57 years old, single and alone, in July 2017 after a lengthy corporate career with a large company in Winnipeg. As one of the first amongst her colleagues and friends to retire, it didn’t take long before she began considering her lifestyle and current situation. Thinking, “Oh my! Now what am I going to do with myself,” she soon realized “I didn’t have any kind of plan.” Turns out, another friend retired not long after and together they began playing the sport of Pickleball. While they enjoyed participating in this sport that was new to them, what was even more intriguing was that they kept hearing more and more about “the 55+ Games.” Unsure what these Games were but describing herself as “agreeable to almost anything,” Lori enthusiastically explains that she attended the 2018 55+Games with her pickleball friend “on a whim” and had such a good time, “we booked 8 rooms in advance for this year!” Their plans were to bring as many friends with them as possible in 2019. The kind of like-minded friends who were up for the adventure; enjoyed a range of activities from mild, moderate to competitive and friends who, like Lori, loved meeting new people and having fun. As Lori now anticipates the 2019 Active Aging in Manitoba (AAIM) sponsored 55+ Games (this year scheduled for June 11th – 13th) in Swan River Manitoba, she confirms she will indeed be bringing along 8 of her closest “mature adult” friends to enjoy all that the Games have to offer. This includes opening ceremonies, various forms of entertainment and/or special events and of course, the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of sports and activities geared specifically to older adults.

Active Aging In Manitoba (AAIM) estimates the 55+ Games will this year see about 1000 older adults and their supporters experiencing more than 25 “age-friendly” categories. Around 200 volunteers help to make the games possible and the athletes range in age from “junior seniors” (as Lori refers to herself!) to a number of participants who are well into the 90’s! Lori explains just some of the reasons she ended up not only participating, but in helping to promote the Games, as a member of AAIM’s Board. “I’ve met tons of people,” she says. “I love to travel and meet people and the games are in a different location each year.” Last year, she shared that she also really enjoyed watching the Opening Ceremonies and seeing all the athletes parade in to the venue, just as they do in the Olympics. She and her friend enjoyed participating in their own sport, in watching as many of the other sports as they could, and by participating enthusiastically at the beer garden too! As a result Lori says, “it just made sense for me to get more involved. I wanted to take an active role in promoting the things I believe in.” It’s safe to say, Lori whole-heartedly believes in these games.

Prior to playing pickleball, Lori had only ever golfed with friends and not particularly seriously at that. Now, she is an avid player of pickleball (the best way to describe this sport is “part tennis, part badminton and part ping-pong”) in a number of leagues, probably playing at a level she says is a bit above that of a beginner.  There are actually several categories of player participation at the 55+ Games and while medals are awarded, “the whole goal is about participation.” Again this year Lori will be playing pickleball and new for 2019, she’ll also be golfing. Of the 8 friends she is bringing, each will participate in two different sports.

Lori shared with us that in her experience many people simply don’t know what to do or where to go when they retire. Unsure of what resources are available to them, they tend to become more insular, staying at home, not venturing out as much and losing contact with friends. That’s one of the reasons she’s passionate about sharing her experience with others. Last year it was just Lori and a friend attending the Games for a total of two people. This year she’s bringing eight friends and next year – who knows? If you were a mathematician you might suggest that Lori alone could be responsible for as many as 24 players attending the 2020 Games. Those games, Lori explained, are actually a “qualifying” year for the Canada Games and it’s her feeling that this fact alone is sure to draw many new participants from a huge variety of disciplines and age categories.

Speaking of the variety – Lori was excited to share “the other thing that I like about the games is that there really is something for everybody.” As well, the 55+ Games focus on promoting both physical and mental aging. In other words, while there are plenty of sports like Track, Nordic Pole, Walking, Running and Cycling to engage in, there are many other activities too. Crib, Scrabble, Snooker, Arts and Crafts, Whist and Bridge are more sedentary but just as competitive. Then of course there’s Swimming, Golf, Pickleball, Bocce Ball, SloPitch, Shuffleboard and Curling. Add in Floor Curling, Carpet Bowling and 5 Pin Bowling and you might be getting tired just thinking of all that’s available! We’re pretty sure we might have even missed one or two! Suffice it to say that when Lori says there’s something for everyone, there truly is! Lori’s enthusiasm was quite literally contagious and because of that – we’re leaving the last words to her: “These Games promote physical and mental aging  – it’s just a great overall thing for older people to get out there and meet other people and to get health benefits and social benefits too.” Well said, Lori Gullivan, well said. If you would like to learn more about the 55+ Games or AAIM, visit the website at www.activeagingmb.ca

Written by Sheralyn Roman

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