Keep fit and happy with sports

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Connie George
Players in the Palm Springs Senior Softball Association gather at DeMuth Park on Tuesday, Thursday and weekend mornings. The nearly 200 members are divided into two leagues, based on skill and fitness levels. Camaraderie among the teammates is high and most return every season.
Photo by: Connie George

Among the Coachella Valley’s many appeals are its plentiful sunshine and beautiful outdoor scenery that invite recreational activities.

Even better, considering that more than half of the area‘s inhabitants are over the age of 50, there are opportunities all across the valley to find a sport that suits every fitness level and interest — and enhances health and happiness.

According to a report from the American College of Sports Medicine and American Heart Association, recreational activities for older adults that enhance flexibility, strength and balance are imperative for healthy aging and disease prevention.

In addition, research conducted at Penn State University shows that people who are physically active report greater levels of excitement and enthusiasm for life than those who are not.

Other university research studies, posted on the website for active adults over 50, have shown that sports boost testosterone in men and enhance orgasms in women.

Clearly, there is much to be gained from taking advantage of our region‘s opportunities for physical fitness. Golf is undoubtedly the valley’s most popular sport, and tennis centers draw out legions of players. But there are far more recreational choices here for older adults who seek the physical health and social benefits of participating in athletic activities.

The Beacon recently visited with a few local groups of older adults who are keeping fit and making friends through sports.

Senior softball in Palm Springs

Nearly 200 men and women in their 50s through 80s make up the membership of the Palm Springs Senior Softball Association, which occupies two ball fields at DeMuth Park on Tuesday, Thursday and weekend mornings.

Two divisions — the National League and American League — allow members to be divided by skill and fitness levels so that players are better matched with fellow teammates, in part for safety reasons, according to National League President Steve Funai, 67.

Funai said the average age of National League players is 67, while the American League average is 55, and most come back every season, creating a sense of commitment that supports game play and builds enduring friendships.

“It’s all about the recreation, exercise and health, but the camaraderie is a big deal,” Funai said. “Plus, it’s great to hang out here and enjoy the great weather.”

PSSSA charter member Herman Mack, 80, said the loyalty among so many members means that “mostly we’re a family because we’ve been together for so long.” The sport has helped Mack keep fit even with three knee replacements. “I don’t know what I’d do if it weren’t for softball,” he said. “It’s a lifeline for a lot of these people.”

For more information on PSSSA and its upcoming summer leagues, visit its website at

Lawn bowlers at the Joslyn Center in Palm Desert play three mornings a week on the only facility for the sport in the valley. Club members say the low-impact sport is ideal for staying physically fit if mobility will no longer allow for golf or tennis.
Photo courtesy of Lawn Bowling Cove Communities

Lawn bowling in Palm Desert

Dressed in white, as is traditional for the activity, dozens of members of the Joslyn Center in Palm Desert gather on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings for the stately sport of lawn bowling.

The center’s lawn bowling facility is the only one in the valley, and because the sport enjoys more popularity in Canada than in the U.S., many of the valley’s Canadian snowbirds have joined the group.

Several members explained that the sport appears deceptively simple, but involves considerable skill. It’s ideal for anyone whose level of mobility is not compatible with more active sports, such as tennis or golf.

According to Don Turner, 73, a snowbird from Calgary, Alberta, during the course of a regular game of lawn bowling, players walk a mile and also lift a total of 300 pounds due to the repetitive lifting and rolling of the bowls, which weigh only a few pounds each.

Marcy Sisson, 84, said she had not been familiar with lawn bowling, but came out one day to investigate it because she’d had to give up golf and tennis due to age and arthritis.

“It’s a good combination of athletics and sociability,” she said, “and it’s something that, if you’re lucky, you can play forever.”

To learn more about Joslyn’s lawn bowling club, call (760) 340-3220.

The Indio Senior Center’s Hiking Club meets every other week for a morning trek through the valley’s mountains, canyons and valleys. Hikes vary in length and difficulty to allow participants of all fitness levels to join in the outings.
Photo by Mike Cramer

Hiking Club in Indio

As many as two dozen members of the Indio Senior Center’s Hiking Club meet every other Wednesday morning for a trek through the region’s natural scenery.

Paul Thompson, 66, who coordinates the group, varies the destinations to accommodate different interests and fitness levels. Hikes generally range from four to eight miles along easy to moderately strenuous trails.

The March 21 outing was an easy, four-mile trek from La Quinta Cove to La Quinta Lake and drew a sizable crowd.

Jim Jones, 61, said this was his seventh hike with the group and that he and others keep coming back because “we’re meeting new people and enjoying places we might not pick on our own.”

Kevin Erickson, 57, said the hikes are “another excuse for getting out and moving,” while Carlotta Fink, 61, said “I’ve made a lot of really good friends and that’s one of the reasons I keep coming back.”

The next two ISC Hiking Club outings will be on April 18 and May 2. Call (760) 391-4170 for more information.