Centre County Senior Games wrap up this week

Harold “Dean” Tuttle is 103, and although he said his body has aches and pains, participating in the Centre County Senior Games the last seven years has helped him feel youthful.

“I’m 103, so my body feels 103, but it’s good to keep me young and on my toes even when I sometimes feel like I’m dragging,” Tuttle said. “I always have a lot of fun and practice when I can, usually every Friday.”

Tuttle, the oldest athlete in the Senior Games this year and more than twice as old as some of his competitors, was once an avid skier, bowler and tennis player. That was until 2007 when he injured his right arm. He said he now competes in table tennis as it causes “less wear and tear” on his body — but it still keeps him on the move.

The Senior Games are an annual competitive tournament held each June by the county senior centers and Centre Region Parks and Recreation. The monthlong event features athletes ages 50 and older who compete in bowling, golf, swimming, bocce, table tennis, basketball, walking, brain activities and more.

Organizer Carol Clitherow said the event started locally in 1988 as a way to help seniors become more active and gain a healthy, competitive spirit with those in their age bracket.

“It’s been a very popular event, and it’s good to keep seniors active, involve them in social interaction and competition,” Clitherow said.

Liz Plozner, supervisor at the Centre Region Senior Center, said each year there are typically around 200 participants and about 20 volunteers who help run the program.

This year, Clitherow added, there are 175 athletes ranging from age 50 to 103, and that includes a father-daughter duo. But Tuttle is not the oldest participant to ever be a part of the games. Clitherow said Helen Hazel-Ryder, who competed at last year’s event, was 104. She died shortly after at 105.

This year, Clitherow said, “mental aerobic games” were added to keep participants’ brains sharp, in addition to making all athletes eligible for awards.

And the planning process is an ongoing activity to make sure the games are successful each year. Clitherow said the planning starts several months before the games begin.

“It’s always on the back of our minds, but we really start about eight months ahead of time preparing venues and encouraging seniors to take part,” Clitherow said.

“We’re always preparing and thinking a year ahead of time.”

Clitherow said all residents of Centre County are eligible for the games held at various venues around the county, and she encourages all seniors to join.

“It’s just a nice event that gets a really positive response,” Clitherow said. “Friends and family come out to support them, and it’s a nice event.”

The last competitions are held Wednesday and are the largest events of the series. The day includes a luncheon with awards, in addition to the last games such as the basketball hotshot, the softball and football throw and the in- and outdoor walk.

All senior athletes involved in the county events also are eligible to participate in the Keystone State Games held near York in August.