Rancho Mirage was the site of the national men's senior 60+ hardcourt championship tournament sanctioned by the USTA (United States Tennis Association), April 7-11. However, the most amazing competition was for men 90+ called Super Seniors. Note there was not a women's 90+ as they have not been able to get typical women to acknowledge that age.
Of the ten players this year half are from California. THREE from the San Diego area…John Shelton of La Jolla, Ed Baumer of Coronado and Julius Wilson of San Diego. The other two men were Francis Gay of Piedmont and Vern Hughes of Laguna Woods.
The most senior of the players, Emil Johnson, of Orlando, FL was concerned for his title, having won two years ago the super senior tennis matches in Vancouver, WA on indoor, Boston, MA on grass, CA outdoor and North Carolina clay courts as he would be competing against 'young puppies' 89 who would be turning 90 ONLY before the end of the calendar year. Quite a challenge for a man who usually plays singles only 2 to 3 hours a day, 7 days a week but who played two sets of singles with score of 7-6/1-6/6-4 for several hours in the morning, followed by three sets of doubles in the afternoon. And, most readers know what the average temperatures are in Palm Springs in April.
Interviewing these tennis buffs as a Gerontologist was most enlightening because of their similarities. All of them were physically active in other sports and had been most of their lives. From volley ball to scuba diving as well as paragliding. Roland Sharer of Columbus, Ohio, for instance, had been to Club Med 27 times as well as ElderHostel the same number of times, alternating each year and usually professionally speaking about his tennis prowess at dinner parties. Three of the men had not taken up the game until their 70's as they were too busy with other sports. Ed, for example, started playing at age 65, as he calculated (retired Brig. General) he would extend his life an additional ten years with this activity. And, he is right on the mark.
Another common denominator is
their agility in other areas. Example: Roland still commands $1,000 a day consulting after his retirement from Lincoln Electric Co. John is a consulting geologist on several projects. Incidentally, John and his wife, Mary Ann, won the national senior indoor mixed doubles tournament receiving a gold tennis ball several years as few married couples in the country have competed together…..and they're still married!
David Carey, of Asheville, N.C. helped reconstruct Asian countries after WWII but didn't have time for tennis until his son enrolled him in the city's 75-year-old tournament at age 68 when he became "hooked". David also was #1 in the WORLD at age 85, only 17 years later, competing in South Africa for that title. Ed and he won the doubles tournament together and were awarded SOLID gold medals.
Charles Hurme, when dancing at the Tuesday night dinner, mentioned that the music was a little too slow, as all of the men in this age were on the floor except those youngsters who were watching.
There are 200 persons over 100 in the US who receive a copy of the SUPER SENIOR TENNIS LETTER newsletter of which 127 profess to still play. Statistically, the editor, John Powless, stated that with approximately 200,000 Americans over the age of 100 today, 71% of the population is over age 50. Ken Beer of Burlingame, CA is scheduled to appear at this year's June Wimbleton tourmament in England as a 100-year-young player.
All of the men AND their wives whom I met were living actively vitally physically as well as mentally and emotionally.
Helen Keller said, "Life is either an exciting adventure…….or it is nothing. And, these people are living proof.
‘Mera’ (E. S.) Kelley, Gerontologist
La Jolla, CA 92038-3132