About a thousand people, including participants and their guests, gathered in Medicine Hat from July 4 to 7, 2019. for the Alberta 55 Plus Summer Games. More photos below. FILE PHOTOS

Grassroots participation in Alberta 55 Plus sports is slowly, cautiously resuming across the province, according to Alberta 55 Plus president Dave Finn. With many pandemic restrictions still in place, and a cautious attitude among seniors, the road to upcoming Alberta Games and Canada Games will be travelled in small steps.

But, Finn said, preparations are in place for an Alberta Summer Games in Peace River in August 2021, and the organization is working on a host location for Winter Games in February 2022.

“We have struck a memorandum of understanding with the Peace River region for our summer games August 2021. I just met with them about three weeks ago to confirm that everything is still a go,” Finn said.

Alberta 55 Plus is making contingency plans for the games in case some pandemic protocols are not lifted by then. 

“The games may look a little different, depending on all the Covid protocols
that are in place. And obviously, we need that final stamp of approval from Alberta Health Services,” he said.

Participants qualify for provincial games through playdowns at the Zone level. Zone 7, which includes Cold Lake, Bonnyville, and St. Paul, has not yet resumed activity.

Alberta 55 Plus games are usually held in alternating years, and qualifying participants are invited to compete at the national level. The 2020 Canada Games were to be held in Kamloops in September, but were postponed to 2021. They were finally cancelled, and Kamloops was awarded the opportunity to host the games in 2022.

Finn says the provincial organization intends to send its usual delegation of 400 – 500 participants to the 2021 Canada Games.

But the emphasis of the 55 Plus movement is typically on participation rather than competition, and local activities are the primary focus. Finn says many members are anxious to get moving.

“I think the membership wants desperately to have things to do. And so each zone is coming up with creative ways to gather their members in smaller core groups to keep the interest alive,” he said.

Membership numbers have dropped because many members have been waiting to see if there will be any activities. But Finn said the provincial organization has kept up its fundraising so they will be in solid shape when people start to come back.

“The membership has indicated to us, through e-mails and phone calls and different meetings that are taking place around the province, that they’re anxious and excited about getting going again. One great thing about our membership is they love to be involved, and they miss it when they can’t be,” Finn said.

“We’re always looking at ways to keep our seniors involved. We’re going to try our best not to let this pandemic situation handcuff us completely.”