Competitive sport for older people is often known as masters sport or veterans’ sport.
Older people’s sport in New Zealand
New Zealand has a strong tradition of older people taking part in sport and recreation. Organised sports that traditionally cater for older people include archery, bowls, croquet, golf, sailing and tennis. From the 1960s there was an international mass movement for exercise in later life, influenced by New Zealand running coach Arthur Lydiard.
In the 2000s most sports had masters associations and age-group championships.
Older New Zealanders with notable sporting and physical achievements include:
- publisher A. H. Reed, known for his marathon walks around New Zealand, which continued into his late 80s
- Burt Munro, who broke the world under-1,000-cc motorcycle speed record three times in his 60s
- Bill Pratney, who retired from cycle racing in his 40s but returned to competitive cycling between the ages of 71 and 85
- Bob Charles, a leading golfer who played in the British Open up to the age of 60
- Bernie Portenski, a middle- and long-distance runner who has held a number of world age-group records into her 60s.
New Zealand’s first sporting competition for older players was the Waipawa Tennis Club's veterans’ tournament, which began in 1955. The Canterbury Veteran Runners Association was set up in 1962, and the first national masters running championship was a cross-country event in 1970. Road, marathon and track championships soon followed.
The South Island Masters Games were established in 1988, and the New Zealand Masters Games in 1989.
‘Golden Oldies’ events for over-35-year-olds began in 1979, and emphasise the social side of sport, rather than competing to win. Golden Oldies tournaments include rugby, hockey, (association) football, cricket and netball.
World events for older participants began in the 1970s. In 1981 the world masters road running championships were held in Palmerston North, and the track and field championships in Christchurch. Auckland hosted the World Masters Games in 2017.
Policy and funding
In the 2000s Sport New Zealand (which changed its name from SPARC in 2012) encouraged older people to play sport. However, most masters sport was funded and administered by its participants.