Peggy Duncan wasn’t the oldest member of Team Yukon in the recent Canada 55+ Games in Sherwood Park, Alberta. That distinction went to 90-year-old Irene Mahoney.
But Duncan was the only with a son and daughter-in-law also participating in the national seniors’ event.
And it wasn’t the first time she’s been to the games with her son, Steve, and his wife, Christine.
In 2010, she says, “I kind of brought the subject up that maybe this might be interesting for them,” Duncan says.
Since they were all in Ontario for a wedding, they decided to continue on to Brockville for that year’s games.
For Duncan, who will turn 82 in December, this year marked her fifth appearance as a floor shuffleboard player on Team Yukon. The first was in 2004, when Whitehorse hosted the games.
She readily admits that watching her children compete is “something every mother should be proud of,” the irony is that the complex scheduling of events doesn’t always make that possible.
“I saw my son once, swim one of his races. His wife was in track and field,” she explains.
“But I was busy doing my competition and they were busy doing theirs, so I never really got to see them.”
If she had, she would no doubt have been proud to see Steve turn in two gold-medal performances in the pool (50m and 100m freestyle) and two bronze (50m breast stroke and 100m back stroke), in the 60-and-over category.
When he was younger, he was in swimming, but “the swim club was way beyond anything I could ever do,” Duncan admits.
In her own younger days, though, she bowled in a league for several years before taking up curling in the mid-1980s.
“I went to competitions with the senior ladies, and then we went to the Canadian Masters.”
The results were “not that good”, she admits.
“There were pretty good curlers across the country, but we always had a good time,” she says.
“We had some good games and that, but we were lucky to win a game, that’s for sure.”
Now, as a veteran of the Canada 55+ Games, she says the competition isn’t what matters most.
“It’s nice to go there and meet all the different people from across the country. We have a good time, and you’re with people,” she says.
“When you’re a senior, that’s quite important. It’s good for your mental attitude, I think.”
According to Spence Hill, who handled media relations for the recent games, the camaraderie among the Team Yukon participants, and the fact they all stayed in one hotel, prompted one woman to describe the atmosphere as “summer camp for old people.”
Many other Yukon seniors obviously share Duncan’s view about the benefits of being active and engaged with others.
The year’s Team Yukon, with 130-some competitors and another 20 mission personnel, was the largest on record.
Hill says membership in the territory’s ElderActive Recreation Association (of which her husband, Tom Parlee, is president) has doubled in the past two years and now stands at 500.
“The government better wake up and smell the coffee in terms of the fact that seniors are no longer leaving the territory when they retire, and there’s this significant body of active, healthy seniors,” she adds.
Those Yukon seniors weren’t sitting on their hands in Sherwood Park, by any means. Team Yukon finished in fourth place in the overall medal standings, with 68.5 medals (half a point for a tie).
That put them behind only the teams from Alberta, B.C., and Saskatchewan, and ahead of Ontario.
And for the fourth time, Team Yukon came home with the Spirit of the Games award, an honour for sportsmanship and participation that has only been handed out eight times so far.
Duncan has her own explanation for Yukon’s success in that area.
“We’re the noisiest ones there, I think,” she says. “And of course, being from a small little town from the North, we all sort of stick together.”
For the record, Steve Duncan wasn’t the only multiple-medal winner in the pool. Carcross swimmer Linda Augustine captured three golds and a silver in her first-ever appearance at the Canada 55+ Games.
In the 80-84 year-old category, Nesta Leduc earned two gold and two silver medals.