Park City’s National Ability Center hosts first Senior Takeover Day |

Park City’s National Ability Center hosts first Senior Takeover Day

Event aims to give people ages 60 and up an opportunity to try new activities

Tim Bates helps Karen Thompson learn how to secure an arrow to the string of her bow at the nocking point during the National Ability Center's Senior Takeover Day Saturday, Sept. 9. The event gave individuals aged 60 and up an opportunity to try the centers adaptive cycling and archery resources.
(Tanzi Propst/Park Record)

“You want to stay young? You want to be fit? This is where it’s at,” Jen Holland, 62, said.

She had just finished an archery shoot at the National Ability Center, during the center’s first Senior Takeover Day on Saturday, Sept 9. Though she sometimes pushes a walker, Holland, who has multiple sclerosis, walked confidently around the shooting range, energized by the activities.

She and nine other seniors worked with volunteers to shoot recurve and compound bows before going for a bike ride.

For some of the participants, like Ren Willie, and Holland, it was a chance to brush up on a lifelong skill. “I was brilliant, even though it’s been like 50 years since I’ve done it,” Holland said.

Willie had, by any measure, been killing it. He had threaded all his arrows into the target in the two innermost circles in a fairly tight grouping. A lifelong archer, Willie started shooting when he was a kid in Lark, Utah, “just below the copper pit dumps,” he said. “It doesn’t exist anymore.”

He started shooting with a small wooden bow he still owns to this day, briefly dabbling with hunting under the prospect of pulling in bounties offered for porcupine feet. At a dollar a pop, he lost all three arrows, and the porcupine (bounty of 50 cents) lived to tell the tale, effectively ending Willie’s budding hunting career.

His granddaughter, Lauren, works at the NAC, so Willie saw it as a chance to combine archery and a family visit, to see what his granddaughter did.

“We wanted to come up and experience it,” he said. Now, in the bright sunshine of Saturday morning, he was fully immersed, and expecting big things of the day ahead.

“It’s going to be great,” he said.

A volunteer stepped up after he finished shooting the arrows in the quiver standing in front of him.

“Can we trade?” the volunteer asked.

“You betcha!” he said, and Mary Lou Kohout took his place.

She’d been with the program for 22 years but archery was new to her. She is something of a poster-child for the center, and was featured on a flyer for senior activities.

“Mainly I started in the winter,” she said. “So I did skiing and taught for a while and I volunteer for that program. And I also do cross-country and snowshoe. Now, this summer, I did horseback riding, cycling and water sports. I’m trying to stand up on a paddle board. I want to go waterskiing.”

Kohout laughed furtively with a volunteer after she sent a couple arrows over and under the target. Admittedly her aim was not great, “it would have been worse without Carly” she said, referring to her volunteer helper.

These are the sort of lifestyles that Andrea Thompson, the camps and community program manager at National Ability Center, hopes to promote. According to Thompson, the idea for the seniors program came out of recognizing a need in the community.

She said the staff at the center wanted to make sure there was a place for seniors.

“We knew that recreation keeps people healthy longer, and we wanted to make sure people knew this was a place they could come for that,” Thompson said. “Hopefully from here we can have more intentional programming for people 60 and older.”

For Holland, the latently brilliant archer, free programs like Senior Takeover Day are crucial. With MS and a stroke took her mobility, Holland found herself wheelchair bound.

“I was trapped,” she said. “It was last winter and (I had) no way of getting out. I was only using this (walker) but you can’t do it through the snow. I’ve always been very much an outdoor person. … Getting out, and transportation, and, here it is. This is a godsend.”

Through programs like the Technology Recreation Access Independence Lifestyle Sports (TRAILS), an outreach program for people with spinal cord injury and disease offered through the University of Utah, and, now, the Senior Takeover Day, she said she is making her way back outside, which is wellspring of her raison de etre.

“To me, the reason I’m walking again is because of the outdoor activities,” she said. “I started with the hand cycling with TRAILS and have now graduated to a recumbent bike. I just cried the first time it happened, because I never thought I would cycle again and I used to be a mad cyclist.”

The activities at Senior Takeover Day were inexpensive ($15 before scholarships), which was another big factor for Holland. Though Holland was a college professor, she now lives on an “extremely limited” income.

She said, especially in this area, where she lives to be close to her daughter, a lot of doors have closed to people that aren’t wealthy.

“Things happen to you and suddenly it’s like ‘Wow, this is not what I thought my years would be’ and I’m only in my early 60s.”

She said community services have given her options for living more vibrantly.
“Now, I’m looking forward to more of life.”

For more information about upcoming programming go to or call 435-649-3991.

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