More than 100 elders participate in the National Senior Games

Jourdan Bennett-Begaye

Runner Ester Felipe, Acoma Pueblo, carried the torch for the Games

The 32nd National Senior Games is being held in Albuquerque, New Mexico for the first time. Organizers designated June 17 as Indian Day, a day that focuses on American Indian and Alaska Native elder athletes. The event provides "a wonderful opportunity for visitors to learn more about New Mexico and the pueblos and tribes within its borders,” according to the National Indian Council on Aging.

More than 100 Native elders were registered for the biennial games, according to the National Senior Games Association. A number that contributes to the event’s record-breaking year of the most registered athletes in history. There are 13,712 athletes from 50 states registered for the 20 medal sports. Power walking is a new sport this year.

The games are “the largest Olympic-style multi-sport event in the world” for athletes 50 years old and older. There are more than 800 sporting events happening during the two weeks.

Native America Calling’s host Tara Gatewood, also hosted the show from the games, spoke with Ester Felipe, Acoma Pueblo, about being the first runner to bring in the torch.

The 89-year-old, who started running at 57, has always wanted to participate in the torch run and she is “very happy and honored” that she had the opportunity to do it and encourages others to “stay active and don’t just watch TV.”

Being active is the “secret to life,” says Felipe. 

Gatewood hosted the show from the games yesterday and spoke with organizers and attendees. 

A mother and daughter from Isleta Pueblo, Alberta Lente and Pauline Lente, will be competing for gold in shuffleboard as reported by the Albuquerque Journal. Alberta won gold in during the 2015 games in Cleveland for shuffleboard and two golds in 2017 at the New Mexico Senior Games.

Another elder competing this year is Ralph Paytiamo, Acoma Pueblo, an 81-year-old veteran who competed in the 1993 National Senior Games in Virginia. he joined the New Mexico Senior Games in 1998 when he was 62, according to the association. He had to slow down on his active lifestyle due to prostate cancer and an aortic aneurysm. Since 2005, he has competed in the race walk, not running.

“You know, I’m a Native and don’t have long legs. I look like a penguin when I walk,” he said with a laugh.


What: 2019 National Senior Games
When: June 14-25
Where: Various venues around Albuquerque, New Mexico
Cost: Free
Watch: Facebook “National Senior Games”

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Jourdan Bennett-Begaye, Diné, is a reporter/producer for Indian Country Today in Washington, D.C. Follow her on Twitter: @jourdanbb. Email: