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Whether you are young or old, sports are an incredible way to strengthen friendships, meet new people, and to stay healthy. There are many physical and mental health benefits of active aging and lifelong sport participation. Statistics Canada shows that young Canadians between the ages of 15-19 are participating in sport at a 54% rate, whereas only 17% of seniors are engaged. Why is there such a large drop off between young and old? What can we do to increase this number?

We can focus on a few key areas that could improve the amount of seniors participating in sport. These include:

  • Create Role Models – Seniors aged 55 and older often have someone they know who is active and has aged successfully. This person is usually older, is consistently active, participates in vigorous activities, and shows that a high quality of life can be achieved at a later age. Masters athletes aged 35 and older are a great example to the senior population because they already see themselves as role models for their own age group. Role models give them someone to emulate and prove that they can do the same things. Athletes such as Olga Kotelko, Ed Whitlock, and Eileen Philippa ‘Phil’ Raschker have proven that age is just a number!
  • Involve Major Sporting Associations – There are many different senior sporting associations both in Canada and around the world. These associations include groups such as the International Masters Games Association, the Canadian Masters Athletics Association, the Ontario Senior Games Association, and Ontario Masters Athletics among others. Organizations such as these do a great job of promoting sports participation among seniors, and can be used as a resource for information on running sports leagues and tournaments. They reinforce the ideology that getting older does not mean you need to stop playing sports and demonstrates to the larger population that these activities help you stay healthy, connected and mobile.
  • Make Sports Convenient and Accessible – Seniors have shown a preference to activities that are easy to get to. With this in mind, sports leagues and organized events should be run at facilities that are regular used by the senior population. These could include churches, community centres, recreation facilities, and arenas among others.
  • Create a Sense of Competition – Many people have a competitive nature, so we need to provide sporting opportunities for all ages to cater to this competitive spirit. Many people have a long-time competitive sport background that inspires their participation and can bode well for involvement in sports at a later age. A great example of this is the Born Again Jocks, who are a group of seniors in Minnesota who participate in sports like softball, volleyball, golf, and cycling. These seniors keep the competitive spirit alive by playing monthly against the local high school volleyball teams, which inspires future generations.

Masters athletes and sporting associations are two of many ways to engage the senior population and encourage sport participation. Sports does not need to be something that ends when you can no longer run as fast, or jump as high. They are activities that promote a healthy lifestyle, create ongoing personal connections and communities. Sports provide an outlet for the passion and energy that exists in every athlete, regardless of age.


Horton S, Weir P, Baker J, Dionigi R. Promoting sports participation: Exploring physical activity patterns and role models of aging amongst older persons. SCRI Knowledge Transfer Papers. October 2015: 116-118.

McGuire, K. Former and current athletes square off across the volleyball net. Minnesota StarTribune. March 10, 2015

by Andrew Caudwell

The information presented in SIRC blogs and SIRCuit articles is accurate and reliable as of the date of publication. Developments that occur after the date of publication may impact the current accuracy of the information presented in a previously published blog or article.