In 1984 the Division of Adult Services and Aging of the South Dakota Department of Social Services established the South Dakota Senior Games. The purpose was to encourage Seniors to become involved in, as well as maintain on-going physical exercise. The Games have served as a very significant motivation for hundreds of Seniors from South Dakota as well as Seniors in other geographical locations as they prepare to participate in this State-wide event, as well as other Regional and National Senior Games Competitions.
In 1996 a major change took place because the funding for the SD Senior Games was withdrawn by the SD Legislature. A number of people who had been involved in the Games thought it was so beneficial to Seniors that they came up with a plan to continue the Games. A Senior Games Board of Directors was formed and made of Senior Games participants from across the State. The purpose of the Board was to set-up a non-profit organization that established rules and regulations and established a means of financing and developing local city (regional) games in the State as well as the Annual State Games in SD. Since that time, the SD Games continues to be governed by the volunteer Board of Directors. Currently, 21 different sports are offered at the State Games.
Since its beginning in 1984, the annual South Dakota Senior Games has continued to attract a very sizeable number of both male and female athletes from across the State of South Dakota and other adjoining states of Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wyoming, and other states like Colorado, Montana, Illinois and the provinces in Canada. Within the span of four days (Thursday-Sunday), these participants compete in 21 different events and within 5-year age divisions (50-54, 55-50, 60-64, 65-69, 70-74, 75-79, 80-84, 85-89, 90-94, 95-99, 100+). An all-time high number of 348 registrants was reached after 15 years, in 1999, but as of 2014, the all-time high was 620.
Every two years a National event is scheduled in alternating sites throughout the United States and the State event in the previous year (held in September), serves as the qualifying event for the National Senior Games the following year. The initial National event was held in St. Louis, MO in 1987, followed by St. Louis again in 1989; Syracuse, NY, in 1991; Baton Rouge, LA, in 1993; San Antonio, TX, in 1995; Tucson, AZ, in 1997; and Orlando, FL, in 1999; Baton Rouge, LA, in 2001; Hampton Roads, VA, in 2003; Pittsburg, PA, in 2005; Louisville, KY, in 2007; San Francisco, CA, in 2009; Houston, TX, in 2011; Cleveland, OH, in 2013; and this year, in 2015, the Nationals will be held in the Minneapolis, MN area. The National event has grown from 2,400 at the 1987 initial event in St. Louis to over 16,000 at the Cleveland National Games in 2013.