Last week more than 110 world-class athletes gathered in the National Stadium in La Sabana for a track and field competition. It was not a particularly unusual occurrence, save for the chants coming from the crowd.
“Vamos Abuelo!” said a child near the front row. “Vamos!” (Let’s go grandpa.)
The Costa Rican Master’s Track and Field Championships held last weekend actually saw a number of grandparents compete, and none of the competitors were under 30. Costa Rica’s Asociación Deportiva Master De Atletismo (ADEMA) is part of an international movement to get society’s oldest members out of their homes and back onto the track.
While many of the competitors were still relatively young, the championship also headlined racers well into their 60s and 70s, with the oldest runner pushing 80.
“Everyone knows that it is important to maintain themselves in physically good condition,” said ADEMA President Marcos Fournier. “The problem is few people are able to do that.
Most people need something else to get them to stay active. ADEMA Costa Rica was founded in 1997 and members have the opportunity to participate in races in Costa Rica as well as other Central and South American countries.
Many of the competitors have been involved with the organization since its inception and hold records across the region. But for most of ADEMA’S members, the records and medals are just icing on the cake for a much bigger goal.
“The reward is that I’m 72, and I’m still feeling really good,” said Jim Procter, an ADEMA sprinter. “For me, that’s a pretty good reward.”While providing competition and keeping people active is an obvious goal of ADEMA and Master’s Track internationally, the organization also creates a community for a demographic vulnerable to loneliness.
“It gives them the opportunity to find people with the same level of excitement and activity level,” said Fournier. “For many of these people ADEMA has become a kind of family.”