Under a clear bright sky, on a warm almost summer’s day, the sound of laughter could be heard echoing across the school playground.
Surprisingly, the noise wasn’t coming from children playing games, rather from a group of seniors releasing their inner child.
They were just some of the 167 seniors aged 50 to 87 who had registered for the 3rd annual East Ferris Senior 50+ Summer Games.
The event is organized by Club Action 50+ also known as the East Ferris Golden Age Club.
“They’re being children again. They’re getting out making new friends and catching up with old friends,” said Ron Roy, event chair.
“Being active is of the upmost importance. If we sit around and do nothing, we become stagnant, and we’ll never go anywhere. People want to get together with their own age group and have fun. It’s hard when you’re only playing cribbage or you’re only playing euchre or only doing line dancing and you’re always with the same people.”
Games are played outside at the playground and across the parking lot at the Astorville Arena.
The long list of activities including bocce ball, Texas horseshoes, bones, darts, floor shuffleboard, big break golf, cribbage, and board games.
“These are all individual games. You pick four out of the 14 games and we put a bunch of people together as a team. This year we have 16 teams,” said Roy.
“It all starts with a continental breakfast, followed by a few games and lunch. Before they go out to play in the afternoon, we have a candy bar, and I’ve never seen seniors act like this is Halloween, going up to the bar two and three times to fill up a little wee bag with candy. We wrap things up with a wine and cheese, and then we do the presentations. All for just $25.”
People drove in from Sundridge, South River, Mattawa, Sturgeon Falls, Sudbury, Parry Sound, Peterborough, and North Bay.
“We asked everybody at the start of the day how many of them were first-timers, and maybe 60 people raised their hands. So that is great to see” said Roy.
Jeanne Knight was focused on playing Bunnock, also known as the Game of Bones.
The game was reportedly brought to Canada in the early 1900s by German-Russian Immigrants.
Usually played outdoors, players toss small “bones” at the opposing teams line up of bones, attempting to knock them over in a specific order.
“I’m enjoying myself very, very much. This is my second year here. I enjoy Texas horseshoes very much, and the darts were good too, but I’m really enjoying this game called bones,” laughed the 86-year-old Knight.
“I’m really happy to be out here at my age. I’m meeting a lot of new friends, and old ones.”
Her game partner, Terri Moore, enjoyed her first experience with the game.
“It is a lot of fun. It is great to be outdoors and part of all the activity. I find it is the social aspect as well that people enjoy. It is nice to meet new people, and it is nice for people of different ages to compete together. It is all a level playing field,” Moore grinned.
“I also played bocce, and ladder toss which is balls with a rope on it and a ladder you have to hook them around, and then I’m off to pickleball this afternoon.”
Irene Kasch was one of those 60 first time participants.
“It is fantastic. I love it. I’m going to go play pickleball in a minute. I’m a pickleball player. That is probably my most favourite. I tried horseshoes and I didn’t do too well with it. I’m not a country girl, but I tried, and it was fun,” laughed Kasch.
“I played bocce ball and that is a fantastic game. We had lots of laughs and that’s good.
The Mayor of East Ferris, Pauline Rochefort, is a founding member of the senior games.
“We started three years ago. We had opened our new pickleball court outside. We have a very active club, Action 50+ with nearly 500 members. Pickleball is a very active sport, so as a result of that, we decided to expand it into a full senior games,” explained Rochefort.
“We have 60 volunteers helping out today because you need almost four or five people for every game. It is the combination of the variety of activities that makes for a demanding activity to organize.”
This year the 50+ club, with funding from the North Bay and Area Community Foundation, challenged the community young and old to participate in the Participaction community challenge.
“It is based on the number of minutes people are active. They want the title of the most active community in Canada. And this whole day counts towards our minutes for the Participaction challenge.”
At the rate the event is growing, it won’t be long before organizers will have to start turning people away.
“We’re almost at our maximum now. Probably about 180 would be the extent. We’re always at Mother Nature’s mercy because we play five games outdoors. We’d have a tough time playing them inside. We play pickleball on the arena floor and that takes 80 people right there,” said Roy.
As he points out, the day isn’t about being competitive, although there is some of that, it is about a community coming together and having fun.