The New Mexico Senior Olympics has a simple motto: “You don’t stop playing because you grow old; you grow old because you stop playing.”

NMSO was founded in 1979 in order to help seniors stay active across the state through groups at the city and county level. The Valencia County Senior Olympics, which was founded following the founding of the state chapter, provides opportunities for area seniors to stay active and involved with a wide range of activities. The minimum age for participants is 50 years old.

The mission is to provide seniors with ways to stay active as well as opportunities to socialize among their peers in a fun environment.

Valencia County Senior Olympics participants line dance during one of the weekly fun events at the Del Rio Senior Center in Rio Communities.

Yvonne Montoya, the president of the Valencia County chapter, has been involved on the board for five years. Her focus has been on increasing participation at the local level, as well as providing a wider variety of activities to allow as many people as possible to participate.

New this year is cornhole, to go along with other low-impact activities, such as shuffleboard and eight-ball pool. In addition, more traditional Olympic events, such as track and field and golf, are offered as well.

There’s pool and poker, ceramics and Tai Chi. Whether you’re looking to join a book club, get in some line dancing or work on a puzzle, Valenc…

Montoya estimates there are about 80-90 active participants in Valencia County, a number she hopes to get up north of 100 in the coming years, with more people taking their involvement beyond just attending events.

“That’s why we have these events throughout the year,” Montoya said. “We can get seniors involved and participating and that we can grab their interest and they will want to carry on with us and join in.”

She hopes more seniors who have recently become eligible will get involved with the organization on a larger scale to ensure that it is in good hands going for decades to come.

The events don’t require advanced registration and occur all over the county. The schedule is typically released two months at a time, with the events for September and October now available.

Members of the Valencia County Senior Olympics pose for a picture during one of the organizations bowling events at the Isleta Fun Connection. VCSO organizes events like this one throughout the year.
Submitted photos

For those who do well at the county games, the New Mexico State Games are held every year as a qualifying event in advance of the National Senior Games, which are held every two years, and were held this past summer in Albuquerque. Five Valencia County seniors won medals at the national event.

“We’re encouraging people to move on from county and on up to state,” Montoya said. “That way they can represent Valencia County at state and then nationals.”

The next national event will be held in 2021 in Florida. In order to qualify, an athlete must finish in the top four in their age group at the state and County games.

The Valencia County Games are put on through the Los Lunas Parks and Recreation, and typically occur from March through May across the county, with registration beginning in late January. A registration fee of $20 gives unlimited access to every event except for bowling and golf, which require an additional fee.

A new online registration system will be used for the 2020 County Games in an effort to eliminate paper waste. Registration will be held at Daniel Fernandez Recreation Center.

The board will also be going through training in order to help them better assist interested parties in the registration process and will be hosting a registration day at community centers around the county.

The VCSO and the village also sponsors a 100 mile senior fitness challenge, where participants try to do 100 miles of exercise in 100 days. The exercise doesn’t have to come from events sponsored by the Senior Olympics, it could come from a walk around the block, riding a bike or riding a horse. How the participants get the exercise is besides the point, the goal is just to get them out and moving in whatever form that ends up taking.

The fee to sign up is $5, but that is waived for those who also plan to participate in the County Games. The dates for 2020 have not been announced, but should fall in the same timeframe.

Those who are looking to learn more about becoming involved with the Valencia County Senior Olympics can contact Montoya at 459-0352 for more information.

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Cameron Goeldner grew up in Boulder, Colo., and attended the University of New Mexico. He covers everything sports for all Valencia County schools.