The 2017 National Veterans Golden Age Games kicked off May 7 in Biloxi, Mississippi. Hosted by the Biloxi Veterans Administration Medical Center, the games is the premier senior adaptive rehabilitation program in the United States and the only national multi-event sports and recreational seniors’ competition program designed to improve the quality of life for all senior veterans.

History of the Games

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Designed to showcase the preventive and therapeutic value of sports, fitness and recreation for all older Americans as well as encourage senior veterans to be proactive in embracing a healthier lifestyle, the National Veterans Golden Age Games (NVGAG) has grown from 115 competitors in 1985 to nearly 800 competitors today, making it the largest of VA’s six rehabilitation special events.

Open to veterans, ages 55 or older, who receive health care from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, competitive events include air rifle, badminton, boccia, bowling, cycling, field, golf, horseshoes, nine-ball, power walk, shuffleboard, swimming, table tennis and track. Exhibition events at the 2017 games will include air pistol, archery, basketball, blind disc golf and pickleball.

Over the years, the events have been adapted to accommodate the varying degrees of physical conditioning, motor and cognitive skills of the participants. Additionally, events have been added for veterans who use wheelchairs and those who have visual impairments.

The games serve as a qualifying event for competition in the National Senior Games, a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee.

Rehabilitative Value for Senior Veterans

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The VA puts a major emphasis on health and fitness with the goal of veterans living healthier, longer lives. The games are just one way for senior veterans to engage in physical activity and friendly competition that engages the mind and the body.

The Office of National Veterans Sports Programs and Special Events has numerous clinical goals for the veterans who participate in the games, including obesity, diabetes and hypertension prevention; decrease risk for falls; and maintaining or gaining strength and endurance for both activities of daily living and quality of life activities. Clinical outcomes include improved functional status, improved cardiovascular functioning, increase muscle mass and strength, and preventing and delaying illness and disability.

“Preparing for the games gave back my life and a better form of me,” says one NVGAG athlete.

The 2018 games will take place Aug. 3–8 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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