Team Yukon spent Monday morning preparing to make a big splash at the Canada Senior Games in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, this August.
“We want to get the seniors exited about being part of the team,” said Sue Meikle, co-chef de mission for the Games.
“We’re practising our cheers, and getting ready for the Games’ parade.”
Sporting yellow Team Yukon shirts or red jackets, all the seniors in attendance at the Elk’s Hall were roused to dangerous levels of excitement with a campy performance by the Yukon Golden Girls dancers.
The Golden Girls served as cheerleaders for this pep rally, as flag-bearer Stan Fuller marched the Yukon colours around the hall.
Fuller is playing cribbage at the Games. “I’m boogered up in this leg and this arm,” he said, pointing out his injuries. “But I can still drink beer and play crib.”
Aches and pains aren’t stopping these oldsters.
“How many people here have new parts?” asked guest speaker Senator Ione Christensen.
More than a few hands went up, to much laughter.
“My hip had its first birthday at the end of May,” she continued. “I think all of us that have new parts, should have a sub-birthday … it’s another reason to have a party.”
This party crowd, nearly 100 strong, is headed to Portage la Prairie to compete in events as diverse as golf, swimming and contract bridge.
“We’ve been working for months now, trying to get seniors active and participating in these Games,” said Bill Simpson, president of the Elderactive Recreation Association, who also competes in fivepin bowling.
“Our strategy is active seniors; active in body, mind and spirit — this is just part of how someone can be active and participate, have a good time,” said Simpson.
“There are lots of different activities, some that are not very demanding physically.”
The Games cannot be called just a sporting event — although it does encompass athletics like cycling and track and field, it also has arts and crafts, scrabble and cribbage.
Team Yukon’s oldest member is Edy Crum, at 88 years old. A carpet bowler by choice, Crum had to switch to cribbage after a problem with her event.
“I hate the thought of sitting there, playing cards for three days,” she said with a laugh. “At my age, you’ve got to keep moving.”
The first Yukon contingent, 32 seniors, headed to Prince Edward Island for the 2002 Games.
Whitehorse hosted the last Canada Senior Games in 2004, and boasted a record 170 competitors that year.
Travelling Outside this year means reduced team numbers, but Simpson and the Elderactive Association have been busy recruiting.
“We’re trying to get more involvement with the communities, and we’ve got a lot more numbers this year.”
Indeed, seniors from Watson Lake, Carcross, Teslin, Tagish, Dawson, Mayo, and Whitehorse are already signed up for the Games.
“We’ve got quite a few first-time competitors,” said Simpson. “I don’t know how they’ll do in the medal categories, but that’s secondary.
“Participation and being active is the goal, and if they get a medal, so much the better.”
Greying baby-boomers have started filling the ranks as well.
“We’ve got quite of few of them, that are still working and getting active at age 55,” said Simpson.
“If you’re going to be 55 before the end of the year, you can compete.”
After the speeches, and a novelty cheque presentation from Archie Lang, emcee Tim Twardochleb had a surprise for everyone.
“It’s time for a five-mile walk and then a game of cribbage,” he said, with a grin.
Nobody seemed interested in that idea.
Actually, the pep rally ended with refreshments and a social.
The Canada Senior Games run August 29 to September 3.