HALL: Senior Games are awesome

Laura Hall
Bob Stephens going all out in the long jump.

Je suis e’tonne’. You think seniors spend theirs lives napping in the recliner and retiring from life? You better nudge that thought out of your head and look at some of the active lifestyles that flow out of the Destin Community Center. 

The center entices you almost every day to get out and get busy with activities. However, there is one activity that happens only once a year. That is the Destin-Emerald Coast Senior Games. If you are between the age of 50 - 100, you qualify to try out your skills according to nine different age brackets and 14 different sports. 

     Pat Markey, director of the Senior Games tells me, “The Senior Games have been going on in Florida for decades but it happened for the first time in Destin this past February. It is an Olympic-style format featuring such things as track and field, pickleball, tennis, golf, billiards, golf, bowling, shuffleboard, table tennis, bowling and basketball-free throw. Next year they hope to add softball, cycling and a 5K road race.” 

     This year, 234 seniors participated in our local games, and some of them qualified to go on to the State Senior Games being held in the Clearwater, Florida-area later this year.

     One of the outstanding participants I talk with is Bob Stephens, a 75-year-old great grandfather. He entered 10 events and placed first, second or third in all 10. 

Going all out, he placed first in the high jump, long jump and spot-shot basketball. Bob is a “never give up” bionic man.  Think he has had easy senior years? Six years ago, Achilles tendon repair, five years ago he had four shoulder surgeries, two years ago six vertebra repaired and one year ago the doctors gave him an artificial hip.

Nothing has stopped him yet. 

“I used to play a lot of sports and now I stay active playing pickleball three times a week.” 

I think Bob must have a stash of kryptonite somewhere.

     I ask Bob how he keeps in such good shape. 

“I do from two to four miles jogging/running every morning, lift weights four times a week and I use a bosu and a rebounder everyday that I can.”

Never having heard of a bosu, I press for information. Bob shows me a clearly unstable object with a slightly rounded body underneath and a squishy rubber mound on the top. He says this one object provides integrated multi-joint movement that requires muscle groups to work together. 

Naturally I want to have a go on this contraption. I cautiously step aboard this gizmo as Bob helps stabilize me. I feel like I just finished throwing back five shots of whiskey as my entire body strains to keep itself upright. When the panic passes, I  feel the muscles working from the feet, up through the legs and into the back. All getting a great workout. Just be careful, don’t fall off this thing and kill yourself.

     I give a call to Richard Lawson as I understand he has been involved in the Senior Games in Pensacola, Tallahassee and the State Games in Orlando, Florida. He tells me, “I have been involved in the Senior games for about six years. This year I qualified from the local games in Destin to attend and compete at the State meet in the Clearwater, Florida area in golf, basketball-shooting and volleyball.”

     I ask Richard how he keeps in shape and he says,  “Lifting weights, aerobic classes and riding my bike. I used to play golf, and was involved in a slow pitch travel softball for 40 years before I had to give that up. When I was a lot younger, basketball was my thing.”

     I question Richard on why he continues to compete and what draws him back to the games year after year. 

“I like the competition and meeting new people. I enjoy the friendly atmosphere of the games and my biggest thrill is staying healthy.”

     Both Richard and Bob give high praise to the first-time event of the Senior Games in Destin. Richard says, “I’m glad they started these games here and I hope it continues bigger and better.”

     Laura Hall is a freelance reporter and longtime Destin resident.  Have an interesting topic, contact her at