Houston is hosting the 2007 National Veterans Golden Age Games. It’s similar to the senior olympics and serves as a rehabilitation and recreational outlet for older veterans. Houston Public Radio’s Laurie Johnson went to the shuffleboard competition and has this report.
Hall A of the George R Brown Convention Center is the scene of a lighthearted, yet intense competition. More than 600 senior veterans are competing this year in events ranging from dominoes and croquet to swimming and cycling. Sitting at the edge of the Shuffleboard competition is a quintessential little old man. He’s wearing a bright blue Hawaiian shirt, has glasses and a shock of white hair.
“My name is Jack Faust and I’m originally from Elwood, Indiana. I now live in Hayward, California. And I’m here to participate in the Golden Olympic Games. A couple people kind of coaxed me into it and here I am!”
Faust is sort of the patriarch of the bunch. He’s 96 years old, the oldest competitor, and says he has every intention of competing again next year when the games are hosted in his boyhood hometown area of Indianapolis. Dewayne Vaughan is the director of the games. He says they serve as physical and mental rehabilitation for the veterans.
“Well you know we’ve proven by their active participation in physical sports and activities they use fewer medications, they go see their doctors less, they feel better about themselves, it improves their confidence, their self esteem. It’s just a great program, great for them to be a part of it. They always enjoy coming to this event and like I say, it’s grown phenominally over the past five years so we look forward to continuing to grow.”
One of the first things you notice when watching the games, is how much fun everyone is having.
“It’s amazing to see how they interact with each other, intereact throughout the competition. And I’ll tell you one of the most unique things about this event is the camaraderie these veterans have — the stories they have, you know veterans getting together maybe since back in Vietnam, some from World War II, Korea.”
And the camaraderie is what the veterans themselves most appreciate.
“You’re not kidding it’s been interesting and outstanding. The companionship of all my shipmates here and the nurses is just outstanding. Everybody’s just been very kind, very kind to me.”
Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.