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Golden Age Games offer outlet for veterans

7/5/2023

Timothy Hill celebrates his first victory during the bocce ball event.

From May 20-25, the National Veterans Golden Age Games made their way into the heart of central Iowa at various locations around the metro, with the main venue being the Iowa Events Center. More than 700 veterans participated in the 2023 games.

The Golden Age Games give veterans who are enrolled in the VA (Veterans Association) who are 55 and older the ability to compete in a wide variety of games for medals and the chance to qualify for the Iowa Senior Games the following year.

This year’s games featured events such as track and field, swimming, golf, pickleball, nine ball pool, shuffleboard, bocce ball, fitness for life, air pistol, table tennis and more. Three categories of competition include ambulatory, meaning being able to walk, wheelchair and visually impaired.

Army veteran Timothy Hill from Ankeny participated in this year’s games and cherished what it was able to offer him. Hill, formerly a carpenter, is now retired after suffering a construction injury that limited the mobility of his right wrist. As a result, he became a self-taught computer technician. This helped him become a computer instructor for the YWCA (Young Women’s Christian Association.) 

During his time in the Army, Hill was a Morse code interceptor, operator and analyzer. He spent time overseas as a result.

“I was in Japan for about two years, June of 1979 to December of 1981. So about a year and a half. I had a three-year tour, and they switched it to 18 months,” said Hill.

Hill heard about the Golden Age Games while he was at the VA in Topeka, Kansas, in 2018. 

“The recreation director over there encouraged me to go because they were really big on the games (for recreation therapy), and they had a lot of community support for it. Then when I got back here to Iowa in 2019, it seemed like nobody had heard of the games,” said Hill.

Timothy Hill participates in the air rifle event inside the Iowa Events Center.

Last year, Hill only participated in the air rifle and nine ball pool events. This year, he competed in table tennis, bocce ball, badminton, air rifle and nine ball pool. 

“I didn’t take home any medals. I got to eighth place in air rifle, which I thought was pretty good. Eight out of 48 is not too bad. So I got a ribbon for it. It’s still another thing to hang on the wall,” said Hill.

“The goal for me in these games is to have fun and not embarrass myself. And if you get a ribbon or a medal, that’s just a bonus,” said Hill with a chuckle.

These games give Hill and other veterans an opportunity to get together and build relationships. It’s more than just competition to them.

“The VA has this really strong focus on staying fit and active because it helps with your mental health and with your physical health. Another reason would be that it gets you out of the house so you’re not just lounging around and doing nothing. Then the companionship, getting to see other veterans from multiple areas of service and just getting to make connections. Over the past two games, there’s probably a half a dozen veterans that I’ve connected with, because we play the same sports, and we’re always encouraging one another. And, of course, talking trash because we all want to win, but we all take it pretty good when we don’t,” said Hill.

Hill believes the Iowa VA is beginning to do a better job with promoting the games to local veterans and gave his own advice on how to increase physical activity within this community.

“They do as much as they can. I know they’re working on getting the veterans additional practice sessions because this year we only practiced from March to May. The games aren’t until next August, so I made the comment that I thought the whole ‘Fitness for Life’ (the Golden Age Games motto) thing was a year-round conversation. They’re working on getting us additional practices, but the veterans still have to find places to go and practice,” said Hill.

In this year’s games, 52 Iowa veterans participated, taking home 55 medals ranging across several events. The 52 veterans participating is a huge increase from the seven at last year’s games in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. While the jump in participation is partially indicative of the games being in Des Moines, the VA did play an increasing role. 

“We’re getting the word out slowly but surely. I’m enthusiastic,” said Hill. ♦

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