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What age would you be if you didn't know how old you are?

People in their 20s don't ask that question. People in their 60s do. For people in their 60s, time matters, moments matter and if they don't pay attention, all of that and all of them become a blur. Worse still, they will become invisible to those people in their 20s, as if the 20-somethings will look through them.

The Sonoma Wine Country Senior Games (SWCSG) is one of the ways to not only make time matter but to make their presence matter, not just for them but for how people see them. Invisibility is a choice, not an inevitability. Life, no matter what the age, can and should be a participation sport. For four days in June people will play tennis, basketball, soccer. They will swim and they will run and they will bowl and they will golf.

The state governing body for Senior Olympics likes the idea of a Senior Games in Sonoma County so much, it is considering this area to be the annual qualifier for the California Games, the winners of which compete in the U.S. nationals. This will be the first year for Senior Games in Sonoma County, but because of the location and topography of the area, other sports like surfing, canoeing, kayaking, mountain biking and fishing are topics for future consideration.

That's a lot of people getting off their duff and there is no better charismatic example of that than the one offered by Santa Rosa's Stephanie Domenichelli, who first thought of a Sonoma games 10 months ago. Domenichelli was at a senior competition when she saw something she'll never forget.

"A woman in a wheelchair went to the edge of the pool," Domenichelli said, "jumped in the water and began to compete."

Whether she won or not is immaterial. That she was there, sticking her nose in it, that's what mattered. And the impact of that attitude cannot be underestimated: Someone in the United States turns 50 every seven seconds. Imagine the ground swell if all plus-50s left the couch, left the stereotype that age is a handicap and saw exercise as a joy, not a burden.

It is an idea gaining traction. Right now all 50 states and 61 countries have Senior Games. The United States first began the Senior Olympics in 1987. Held every two years, 10,000 athletes competed in the U.S. Senior Games in 2009. Registration for the June 2-5 Sonoma Games begins next Tuesday when its website — Winecountrygames.com — becomes operational. Questions can be answered by calling 525-0143, ext. 128. Two of the most obvious questions are the easiest to answer.

Anyone 50 and over from anywhere is eligible. It's also cheap, $39 per person to register plus an event fee of $7. There'll be the usual swag bag containing a lanyard, T-shirt, rules and a booklet that can be picked up at the Flamingo Hotel, the event headquarters. Sutter will do a free health screen.

Santa Rosa JC will host tennis, swimming and basketball. The 5K and 10K road races will take place in Cloverdale. Double Decker Lanes in Rohnert Park will handle the bowling. Windsor Golf Club is the site of that sport. Soccer will be played on the fields at West Third Street in Santa Rosa. Bocce ball will be at Juilliard Park in Santa Rosa. And this, the organizers hope, will be seen as a modest beginning.

"We are hoping for 25 sports in 2012," Domenichelli said.

Like Levi Leipheimer's GranFondo and the NASCAR race at Infineon Raceway, the location is a draw above and beyond the event itself, sort of like the financial cherry on top of everything else. As she gathers sponsors and volunteers, Domenichelli is quick to emphasize the economic impact of the region — even if it's five months away.

"We have modeled our event after the Huntsman Games in St. George (Utah)," Domenichelli said. "The average stay for a competitor there is 6.7 days."

The average age for those who stayed those 6.7 days is unknown and, frankly, unnecessary. The only numbers that mattered were the ones on a stopwatch or a scorecard. They didn't act their age, the people in their 20s would say. To which the people in their 60s would say, "How am I supposed to act? Sorry but I never got around to reading the rulebook on that one."

Rules, like stereotypes, are made to be broken.

So how about this one?

People in your 20s, do pay attention to the Sonoma Wine Country Senior Games. Why?

You have something to look forward to.

For more North Bay sports go to Bob Padecky's blog at padecky.blog.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist at 521-5223 or bob.padecky@pressdemocrat.com.

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