Michael Cushnier began competing as a cyclist in the Michigan Senior Olympics in 1999.
Starting in cycling in the 1970s, he would participate in weekend races around Michigan, but the increasing costs of liability insurance made such events more expensive and infrequent. That’s why he signed up for the cycling competitions in the Michigan Senior Olympics as soon as he turned 50. Now 71, he also participates in its race walking and power walking events.
“I don’t know what I would do without them,” he says. “I can’t say enough about these Olympics.”
Enhancing Health and Fitness
Michigan Senior Olympics is a nonprofit organization established in 1979 with the goal of enhancing the quality of life for people ages 50 and over through programs that promote physical fitness. The Senior Olympics celebrates its 40th anniversary with this year’s Summer Games. Scheduled for Aug. 10-19, most Senior Olympics events are held around Oakland County.
“We are so proud to have many of our events taking place in Oakland County,” says Executive Director Becky Ridky. “The county has beautiful parks and facilities that make it the perfect location for hosting the Michigan Senior Olympics.”
More than 1,000 athletes from all over the state are expected to participate in more than 20 sporting events including archery, badminton, bowling, cycling, golf, 5K and10K runs, powerlifting, racquetball, softball, swimming, triathlon and many others. The Olympics are open to all athletes ages 50 and up, and each competition is divided into five-year age groups all the way up to 100-and-over (and yes, there are centennial athletes who participate).
“Anyone is welcome to participate. They don’t have to qualify,” Ridky says. “We do have athletes that train year-round and are very serious about their sports, but we also have those who might want to try something different that are new to a sport. There are all different types of competition levels, from more competitive events like cycling and triathlon, to events like the basketball skills competition and power walking.”
Kelly Brent, a Michigan Senior Olympics sponsorship committee member who also works in senior care, says the games help to keep seniors “more engaged, involved and purposeful.”
“The Michigan Senior Olympics has events that are more intense and physically demanding, then they have some that most seniors can play at any age, like bocce and power walking,” she says. “It’s still so encouraging for someone to go out and do, even though they might not be the best player or fastest walker.”
Brent is passionate about supporting the games because they unite the senior community while promoting health and wellness. Even those who can’t physically participate in the games themselves benefit by being involved.
“We see seniors in our communities engaging in these programs and activities, but we also see seniors supporting other seniors,” Brent says. “Maybe some can’t participate themselves, but they can still support the sport and participate as spectators of these events. The games are really giving seniors an opportunity for purpose, and we get to see those folks really thrive within events they can still do, and do well really. It brings the community together as a whole.”
The Michigan Senior Olympics is affiliated with the National Senior Games Association, and is a qualifying event for the National Senior Games in alternate years. The most recent national games were held in Albuquerque this past June, where 312 athletes from the state of Michigan — including Cushnier — brought home 63 gold, 72 silver and 33 bronze medals. Participants in the 2020 Michigan Senior Olympics will be able to qualify for the 2021 National Senior Games in Fort Lauderdale.
Any athlete who wishes to participate in the Summer Games this August has until July 26 to register. Late registrants can call the Michigan Senior Olympics at 248-608-0250 to inquire about participating.
This year’s Summer Olympics will start with the elegant Dancesport event on Sunday, Aug. 4, at the Royal Park Hotel in Rochester (purchase dinner and spectator tickets here). The official Summer Games kick-off party will be held from 6-8 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 9, at Bloomer Park in Rochester Hills. This event is free and open to the public, with live music from the Beatles tribute band Toppermost, free pulled pork sliders and hot dogs from Detroit BBQ Co., inflatables for children and a torch-lighting ceremony.
For the complete schedule, click here.
The Michigan Senior Olympics hosts events year-round, including annual Winter Games as well as other fundraisers and events.
“Our goal is to get as many seniors in the state of Michigan active and healthy as possible, and encourage people to come out to be spectators and volunteers,” Ridky says.
Cushnier, who has now competed in 108 cycling races and 115 race walks and will be participating in his 21st Olympic games in August, says the Olympics mean more to him than just physical fitness.
“It’s a great way of staying in shape and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but what’s really been important to me is all the people I’ve met along the way,” he says. “I’ve made some really great friends in cycling and race walking.”