Meet This Month’s Successful Ager: San Diego Senior Games Association

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By: Maja Gawronska, MA

Does getting older mean losing stamina and energy? Not for senior athletes from San Diego who prove that you can live life more fully, get into the best shape of your life, and do just about anything else your heart desires at any age—even in your eighties and nineties.

Athletes involved in the San Diego Senior Games Association are a part of a thriving community of people who inspire one another to stay healthy, keep fit, and play sports. And they play hard.

This year’s San Diego Senior Olympics started in August and will continue through September. With twenty-eight sports, from archery to tennis to volleyball, it will be one of the largest senior sports festivals held in California.

SD Senior Games - SplashParticipants usually range in age from fifty to ninety, but age is not a limit. A few of the last year’s San Diego contestants were one hundred years young.

The competition is expected to be fierce, as San Diego has some of the best senior athletes in the country. Take the Splash, a nationally renowned basketball team made up of members who are all in their eighties. The Splash has won national gold medals in several senior games competitions. 

Another participant, Don Pellmann, 101, set five age-group world records during the last’s year San Diego event. He is the first centenarian to break twenty-seven seconds in the hundred-meter dash, the first to clear an official height in the high jump, and the first in shot put, the discus, and the long jump.

Pellmann, a gymnast and a high jumper in his youth, quit the track team to get a job during the Great Depression. After raising three children with his wife and retiring from General Electric, he had time to pursue his passion again. Asked about his successful aging, he said that he is gifted with good genes. And he thinks that having a purpose also helps.

The San Diego Senior Games Association was founded in 1988, three years after the first senior games were held in St. Louis, Missouri. The first San Diego Senior Olympics were organized by Sam Cohen, the physical education director of the East County Jewish Community Center. In 1988, 143 athletes entered the games in nine different sports. Last year, there were 1,700 contestants.




Please visit sdseniorgames.org to learn more or to register. You can register a team or yourself for individual sports.

If you are a successful ager or know someone whom you believe we should feature in our Successful Ager Series, please contact us at (858) 534-6299 or aging@ucsd.edu and provide the person’s name, contact information, as well as a brief description of why you feel he or she is successfully aging. We will feature some of these individuals in future newsletters.