When Donald Moffat of Largo began playing tennis at age 51, he did not imagine that eight years later he would be competing with 137 other top tennis players age 55 to 59 in the U.S. National Senior Sports Classic IV.
In November 1992, Moffat entered and won the tennis event in the Good Life Games, a mental, physical and recreational competition for adults age 55 and older, held each year in Pinellas County. Moffat's win qualified him for the nationals in Baton Rouge, La., in June 1993.
"I figured I'd take a little vacation and have a little fun," he said.
He won the silver medal.
"I was very surprised at the outcome," Moffat said, "I just kept winning and winning until pretty soon I was playing for the gold."
Moffat, now 60, is again entering the Good Life Games, which will be Nov. 12-20. Competitors will be trying to qualify for the Florida Senior Games State Championship in Bradenton. Those winners will advance to the 1995 U.S. National Senior Sports Classic V in San Antonio, Texas, in May.
Moffat and others are training like Olympians for the competition. Moffat plays tennis a few hours a couple of times a day.
"I'm feeling very strong," he said. "I want to have a good shot at winning the nationals this time."
Held for 15 years in Pinellas County, the Good Life Games will attract about 1,700 participants from more than 75 Florida cities and more than 20 states. Participants will compete for gold medals in the 34 events.
Pat Hooper and her husband, Bill, both 67-year-old residents of St. Petersburg, are planning to enter the Good Life Games and compete in table tennis, bowling, bocce ball, air rifle shooting, sailing, golf and _ for the first time this year _ cycling.
Mrs. Hooper said that between the two of them, they have amassed about 35 medals during the past eight years. But training hard, she says, is just not their style.
"We do it for the fun of it," Mrs. Hooper said. "I sail once a week, and my husband and I play table tennis two or three times a week, but that's about it. People shouldn't get the impression that you have to train really hard to participate."
John Donnelly, 88, says he has played table tennis in the Good Life Games for the past few years, because it is "wonderful exercise."
"It's great for an old man like me," said the resident of Sun City Center, south of Tampa.
"I probably wouldn't be alive today if it weren't for table tennis," Donnelly said. "And participating in the senior games just makes it that much more interesting."
Whether for exercise, fun or competition, the games are just one facet of what has come to be known as the Good Life Celebration, a nine-day festival that includes an expo, a social and countywide festivities.
Everyone is a winner just by being involved, said Shirley Lewis, director of the Good Life Celebration and community relations officer at Barnett Bank of Pinellas County.
"All of the seniors who take part in the celebration, whether it be through a sport or a recreational, mental or social event, are demonstrating to the community at large that growing older doesn't have to mean growing old," Lewis said. "These seniors have found excitement in healthy aging."
Robert Schurr, 77, has participated in the Senior Smarts Trivia contest for the past four years.
Last year the Largo resident became team captain for the Senior Smarts All-Star Team, which competed at the state championships in Orlando this summer.
Schurr says he is practicing for this year's Senior Smarts by reviewing Trivial Pursuit cards and listening to information on audio tapes.
"I spend about three to four hours a day making and listening to tapes," Schurr said. "It's become my favorite hobby."
Other games that offer a mental challenge include bridge, chess, pinochle and cribbage.
For those who want to participate in a non-competitive way, a fun walk will be held on the Pinellas Trail.
The festival begins Nov. 12 with the Good Life Expo at the Coliseum and the Sunshine Center in St. Petersburg. An arts and crafts festival, a karaoke contest and special exhibits for seniors will be featured. Parking and admission are free.
On Nov. 13, a Good Life Social will be at the Minnreg Building at Honeywell in Largo. Music from the 1940s and '50s will be played by a WGUL-AM disc jockey. Admission is $3 in advance and $4 at the door.
Celebrations will take place around the county and include everything from a hoedown to karaoke contests.
A detailed schedule of events, map, game information and entry form for the Good Life Games may be obtained at any Pinellas County Barnett Bank, offices of the St. Petersburg Times, all event locations and related recreational and senior service centers. Entry forms must be postmarked no later than Nov. 1. Anyone age 55 or older by Dec. 31, 1994, is eligible to enter the games. A one-time entry fee of $12 includes entry into one or more events plus a commemorative T-shirt. Games entry fee without the T-shirt is $8. Proceeds will benefit Neighborly Senior Services.