Senior Planet News

Introducing the 2021 Senior Planet Sponsored Athletes

For the second year, Senior Planet put out the call for “Senior Planet Sponsored Athletes” — adults age 60 and older who are excited about fitness, have identified their wellness-related goals, and are willing to share their experiences to inspire other older adults. After reading some 40 incredible applications, a selection committee of Senior Planet staff and some of the 2020 Sponsored Athletes selected five new older adult athletes. Their stories inspired us, and — we think — will inspire you:

Dancing Her Way to Fitness 

Elisse Barnes, 60, has “danced her way around the globe” with online videos by BollyX, Body Groove, Hot Hula, and United Nations of Zumba instructors after learning how to “cut the cable cord” in a Senior Planet class. Now that she’s reached her goal weight and rediscovered her love for dance, the next stop on Elisse’s journey is reversing the muscle loss that accompanies aging. Elisse is ready to inspire the Senior Planet community by sharing what she has learned about dance, exercise, and establishing a personalized fitness routine.

Carry That Weight

“We need to challenge ourselves to attempt a form of exercise that is hard but so rewarding”

-Abbey Moon

Abbey Moon, 76, has found strength, independence, control, and confidence through the sport of powerlifting. A survivor of domestic violence, Abbey’s goal is to motivate and inspire other older adults to lift weights as a form of improving both physical and mental health. She is disproving the notion that seniors are “weak” or unable to participate in nontraditional activities. “We need to challenge ourselves to attempt a form of exercise that is hard but so rewarding,” Abbey says. “It brings out our strength and ability to care for ourselves as we age. Powerlifting is fun, challenging, exciting, and very learnable.”

Bowling for Fitness

Mark Newton, 60, is a lawn bowling extraordinaire, a sport he describes as “physical meets mental, fitness meets strategy.” Mark believes that lawn bowling is a fantastic activity for older adults in the Senior Planet community because of its many benefits, including stretching, strength, strategy, and teamwork. It’s his mission to demonstrate that lawn-based sports, games, and activities can be incorporated into anyone’s overall health and wellness goals.


On the Rebound – er

“Rebounding is so much fun & really makes my whole body smile”

-Arlene Toonkel

Arlene Toonkel, 68, is a retired educator who is ready to teach the Senior Planet community about rebounding — a fun style of aerobic exercise performed through jumping on a mini-trampoline, or rebounder. She’s discovered countless physical and mental benefits through rebounding, from higher energy levels to less worry and stress. Arlene’s routines also combine techniques learned in Senior Planet’s weekly fitness classes. “Rebounding is so much fun & really makes my whole body smile,” Arlene says, “especially when I have music on.”

Overcoming Obstacles with Fitness Training

“I’d like to represent the senior who struggles, but won’t give up”

-Hollis Wagenstein-Hurturk

Hollis Wagenstein-Hurturk, 70, is proving that anyone can be an athlete, no matter the physical challenges that accompany getting older. After a disabling incident in midlife, Hollis had to rethink her priorities and start life over, essentially from scratch. “I had to re-learn how to walk in a water tank and how to cross the street by myself again,” Hollis explains. Exercise, always a significant part of her daily life, is now a core strategy for rehab and recovery. “I’d like to represent the senior who struggles, but won’t give up,” Hollis says — “who want to do whatever they can, when they can’t do everything they want to do.” As a Senior Planet Sponsored Athlete, Hollis is ready to show that “you don’t have to be perfect to have a perfectly good time.”

How to Follow Along

Each Senior Planet Sponsored Athlete has an inspiring story and a unique perspective on fitness, and each uses technology to support their fitness routines. All year long, they’ll be inviting us into their lives, and sharing their challenges and successes by writing blog posts here on  They’ll also host virtual fitness events throughout the year that you can participate in.

Want to catch up on the stories from last year’s athletes? Click here! In need of a little motivation to get moving? Join our daily health and wellness programs, stay tuned to the latest news and articles from by signing up for The Orbit weekly newsletter, and follow us on social media (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram) to get to know these awe-inspiring athletes. You might just find a new love for fitness along the way!


4 responses to “Introducing the 2021 Senior Planet Sponsored Athletes

    1. Hi Ernie! Thanks for writing in. Senior Planet Sponsored Athletes are people aged 60 and over who will be sharing their fitness journeys by creating content for the and hosting live virtual fitness classes for our community. They each receive $1000 to use toward achieving their future fitness goals (i.e. monthly gym membership, workout equipment, race entry fees, etc.).

  1. Very nice to read these stories of the various seniors and their involvement in sport, play, and exercise. I have always been a proponent of not only lifelong learning but health and wellness, sports and fitness as well. My problem: I never liked to exercise.

    In the past I officiated basketball and justified it in part by saying I was getting paid to exercise. As I age I see more and more the value of involvement in activities like these featured stories: cardiovascular benefits, mental health, flexibility and balance, strength training, to name a few.

    As we age, we can become at increased risk for preventable health conditions. Sports and exercising helps. As we age, the potential for risks for falls increases. Exercise, activities and movement helps with that. As we age, we are at risk for seclusion and isolation. Engagement in activity—especially with others—helps with that.

    Thank you for sharing these stories that were both inspirational and aspirational.

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