A wrinkle in summertime 

Take a cue from the older folks and play some low-impact games

According to U.S. Census numbers from 2013, about 11 percent of Colorado Springs residents — or 48,000 people — are at least 65 or older. So it's not surprising that the Springs offers a robust assortment of sports and games that cater to a more venerable crowd.

"Is 60 the new 50? Is 70 the new 60? And so on down the line?" wonders city recreation supervisor Gerry Strabala.

So in a summer guide devoted to child-like pleasures, we wanted to point out that you can find inspiration at the other end of the spectrum. In other words: Your parents are shaming you. In some cases, your grandparents are shaming you. Get out there and play.

This summer, you can make 30 the new 70, or 40 the new 80. Below are some possibilities, divided into three categories: inactive, active and pickleball, since it's reportedly the nation's fastest-growing leisure sport.

First of all: Bingo. As noted in this week's 7 Days to Live section (p. 41), Monday nights bring charity bingo at the Underground Bar and Grill (110 N. Nevada Ave., sidengo.com/undergroundbars), and most Saturday nights also mean bingo at Thunder & Buttons II (2415 W. Colorado Ave., thunderandbuttons.com). But if you'd like to join a more hardcore community, there are a number of bingo parlors around the city, such as Carefree Bingo at 3440 N. Carefree Circle. These bingo halls offer games benefiting various organizations, including Monument Hill Kiwanis, Aerials Gymnastics and the Colorado Springs Children's Chorale.

To get a taste of that scene, albeit circa 2012, see Matthew Schniper's first-person investigation here: bit.ly/1c2NmdD. One tip from the story: According to one member of the Fraternal Order of Eagles, "attendance noticeably rises at the beginning of each month when pension, Social Security and welfare payments are distributed."

Also, if you look at the Colorado Springs Senior Center (1514 N. Hancock Ave., csseniorcenter.com), you'll find a host of table-game choices: cribbage, dominoes, party bridge, pinochle, poker. If you're not yet a senior, it's not appropriate to join a game there, but you can get inspired and play your own game on someone's patio. Plus, there, cigars and beer are options. (One more thing: Before you dust off those Parcheesi and Clue boxes, check out tips on modern board games from community blogger Nate Warren at bit.ly/1cslKj1.)

But say you want to be more active; you're in good company. Take Jack Dowds, who runs a senior slow-pitch softball league for the city. He's 75 and plays outfield, and says players extend into their 80s. "If they want to come out and still can play, God bless them," he says, adding the game provides not only exercise but socializing.

And a little glory. "We had one guy hit three homers today over the fence," he told us a couple weeks ago.

If they can do it, you can, right? The city's "late season" runs July 6 through Aug. 22, and you can put a team together and register through June 12; see bit.ly/1zL5RhQ.

At the city golf courses — Patty Jewett and Valley Hi — assistant golf pro Billy Ross reports, "We have seniors in their 90s who play golf." Costs for nine holes Monday through Thursday is $15, or $29 for 18 holes. Friday through Sunday, expect to pay $16 for nine holes and $31 for 18, he says. You can rent equipment if you don't own your own.

Also, tennis lessons are available at Memorial Park, via Springs Tennis (bit.ly/1JOMIie). If you know how to play, you can simply find an empty court anywhere in the city. "If you want to say, 'This is my court from this time to this time,' you can do a rental from us, which is $8 per hour," Strabala says. Call 385-6023.

The king of active senior sports, though, seems to be a cousin of tennis: pickleball (pikespeakpickleball.com). Invented by a congressman from Washington, Rep. Joel Pritchard, and a friend in 1965 as a game the whole family could play, pickleball was being played in all 50 states by 1990, according to the U.S.A. Pickleball Association. It was a sport at the Arizona Senior Olympics in 2001 and the first national tournament was held in Arizona in 2009.

Colorado Springs has more than a dozen pickleball courts in Monument Valley Park, and two others in Middle Shooks Run. The city also plans to add courts at the new Venezia Park, for which ground was broken in late April.

Nancy Steffy, the 59-year-old president of the Pikes Peak Pickleball Association, proudly notes that the 13 Monument Valley courts used to be lined for tennis but were changed a few years ago at the urging of the local pickleball community.

"During the summer, these courts will all be full," she says. But they turn over quickly, because one game — to a score of 11, winning by two points — lasts only five to 15 minutes.

JoAnn Gaston, 73, says the game, played with a hard racket (which you can find for as little as $20) and bouncing ball, promotes hand-eye coordination and mental acuity. "That interaction between motor skills and thinking is what keeps your brain active and alert," she says.

Michelle LeCompte, wellness coordinator for the Center for Active Living at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, says older folks tend to gravitate to the game, in part because it's inherently social.

"The great thing about it is there's not a lot of running," LeCompte says, who notes her tennis injury kept her from the "sport of kings," but she competes in pickleball easily enough. "You don't have to be really athletic."

But certainly, you can be. One fanatic is Bob Wenger, an obviously hale and hearty guy who upon talking with the Indy had just finished a game and had beads of sweat on his forehead. He says he used to play tennis, racquetball and ping pong. But he gave all those up, "because I play this."


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