For Senior Games competitors, life just beginning

Apr. 22, 2014 @ 10:15 PM

There’s not enough glucosamine in the world to make the knees and hips of senior citizen Vonda Feamster move like that.

Feamster did a supremely kinetic number on Tuesday during the opening ceremony for the Durham Senior Games & SilverArts Showcase, and she’d hardly caught her breath inside the Community Family Life and Recreation Center at Lyon Park before hopping back on stage to belly dance with some ladies who call themselves The Golden Genies.

“Let the games begin!” demanded torchbearer Wayne Thorpe, officially launching the competition that started Monday and ends May 3.

Folks ages 55 and up will go at one another at various Bull City venues in everything from basketball to shuffleboard to bowling, and there’s woodcarving, singing, things like that.

Retired educator Cynthia Ferebee said she’ll swim and cycle.

“I don’t want to go home and get old,” Ferebee explained. “I’m 66 years old and proud of it.”

The N.C. Senior Games began in 1983, and Durham’s games are an offshoot of that. The deal here is promoting healthy living among those who’ve been around the block more than a few times, Durham Senior Games coordinator Bridgette Robinson said.

City Council member Cora Cole-McFadden said that she at long last is old enough to participate in the Senior Games.

“I’m finally 55,” Cole-McFadden quipped, humoring the audience, most of them in on her underselling her age.

Cole-McFadden told the assembled athletes that their participation in the games demonstrated their commitment to maintaining a high quality of life.

“We need to have less stress and more movement,” Cole-McFadden said. “It is so important as seniors that we take care of ourselves. We take care of everybody else.”

Those Golden Genies sure didn’t look like they needed any help. Their movements were so sexy that master of ceremonies Steve Jones claimed he didn’t watch the performance -- because his wife was in the room.

Around 45,000 people will participate in the state’s Senior Games, which serve all 100 North Carolina counties, Jones said.

Durham’s games have 167 people registered, that number up from a year ago, Durham Parks and Recreation Director Rhonda Parker said.

Parker said she, too, is a senior citizen, a mature adult.

“Your life is just beginning,” Parker told her peers. “We have a lot to offer the community, and we’re a vital part.”

Ferebee performed with the Durham Senior Divas ’n Dudes, a cheerleading squad. She was joined at the opening ceremony by her husband, Floyd, who said he’d do some cycling during the Senior Games.

Divas ’n Dudes cheerleader Shirley Anglin is a Senior Games ambassador who said she has been promoting the event for 13 years. She does it because she’s all about what Johnnie Bryant was all about.

Bryant, who played basketball for Duke and umpired Durham Bulls games, won at least 300 medals over the years in the Senior Games, said Sarah Hogan, who handles special programming for DPR.

“He was a natural athlete and lover of sports,” Hogan said.

Hogan initiated a moment of silence for Bryant, who was 90 when he died in March.

The senior athletes refueled after the opening ceremony with bottled water and cookies. Yes, cookies. Not newfangled super cookies packed with protein. Just cookies -- big, ol’ fat ones filled with carbs.

These athletes are from the generation before everybody started counting calories and fixating over fiber, and -- if Feamster is any indication -- those cookies, apparently, are just what the doctors should have ordered.