In the mid 1960s the National Recreation Association, now known as the National Recreation and Parks Association, developed a program titled "Lifetime Sports." This program emphasized getting individuals involved in sports which they could compete in throughout their life span. As the Lifetime Sports concept developed across the country in the mid-1970s, middle aged amateur athletes of the mid-1960s were becoming mature senior athletes.
Beginning in California in the early 1970s, the birth of a new athletic competition occurred. This competition was unique because it was limited to those athletes ages 55 and over. The Senior Games movement spread from California to many other states. As a result of this nationwide participation, a national competition was begun called the U.S. National Senior Sports Classic, now called The National Senior Games. The first national competition was held in St. Louis in 1987 and attracted 2,500 athletes.
The National Senior Games Association, formerly known as the U.S. National Senior Sports Organization, is responsible for the biennial Summer National Senior Games and for promoting healthy lifestyles for older adults through education, fitness and sport.
The Summer National Senior Games are held in odd numbered years (2019, 2021, etc.). At the most recent national competition, held in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 2019, more than 13,000 athletes competed in 19 sporting events. Ages ranged from 50 to 100!
Senior Olympics began in Ohio in 1979. The games have grown over the years, but the purpose remains the same - to promote healthy lifestyles and physical activity for Ohioans age 50 and over and to provide top quality athletic competition.
Regional games are held each year at sites around Ohio. The sponsoring organization of each regional games determines which events will be offered as well as the schedule and fees for those events. Since each games exists autonomously, events offered around the state vary. Most regional games offer at least some of the events from the schedule of events of The National Senior Games, in addition to favorite events of the region.
In addition to regional/local games, each year there is a state Senior Olympics competition, called Ohio Senior Olympic State Games. The State Games are held annually in Westerville and open to all athletes competing at the regional/local level. Ohio's state games are also open to athletes from outside of Ohio.
At a minimum, the State Games offer a near full event menu of The National Senior Games. The State Games are held in Westerville and hosted by the City of Westerville Parks and Recreation Deparment. The State Games that take place in even numbered years act as the qualifying competition for The National Senior Games, which are held every two years, in odd numbered years.
To compete at The National Senior Games athletes must compete and qualify in their chosen event. Qualifying criteria varies from event to event, but is established in advance of the qualifying State Games by The National Senior Games Association.
The Senior Olympics movement in Ohio is governed by a voluntary Board of Directors. The Board of Directors is composed of games coordinators from around the state and "at-large" representatives. The Board of Directors meets quarterly to discuss games' business and set policies for the statewide movement.