Older athletes find togetherness

  • Pauline and John Loades practice archery at their home in Occidental in preparation for the Sonoma Wine Country Games for athletes over 50 on Monday, April 7, 2014. (Conner Jay/The Press Democrat)

Polly and John Loades were never athletic. When it came to sports, Polly Loades preferred "bench-warming." Her husband did a little hunting.

But when they retired, they decided to get physical. Now, in their early 60s, archery's their game.

For Tony and Susan Cole, it's the ancient sport of bocce ball, a game traditionally associated with old Italian men, that gets the couple out of the house to go roll balls down a court.

Pickleball is the new passion of Healdsburg grape-growers Candy and Steve Sommer.

The three couples will be among an expected 1,500 athletes competing in 20 different sports in this year's Sonoma Wine Country Senior Games, a competition for athletes over age 50 that runs May 29 through June 8. More information is at www.winecountrygames.com.

It's not just a once-a-year challenge that makes these born-again athletes want to move. It's finding a sport that gets them off the couch, enlarges their social circle and, in the case of these couples, doing something they like together.

As Polly Loades said, "I knew I didn't want to pick up a rifle and he wasn't into gardening."

John Loades, a retired utility manager, started off by using a bow to hunt elk and then discovered "there's more to archery than hunting."

The Loades' property in the Occidental hills is dotted with bull's-eye targets. But they get most of their bow shooting done with their group, the Sonoma County Bowmen, which holds competitions and practice shoots at a wooded, hilly range in Two Rock.

To stay flexible and build their muscles, the Loades also work out daily at their home gym.

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