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Age no match for these senior tennis players

  • TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE

    Frank Asta of Batavia, Ill., 78, left, and Warren Moulds, 85, of Geneva, Ill., took a few minutes to relax after playing tennis at the DuPage County Fairgrounds last month.

FOX VALLEY, Ill. >> If you’re feeling a little insecure about how you’re aging, stay away from 85-year-old Warren Moulds of Geneva, Ill., and 78-year-old Frank Asta of Batavia, Ill.

Either that, or try to emulate them.

But this would take a lot more effort than most of us are willing to give, especially at a certain age in life, as both men are active members of the DuPage Winter Tennis Club in Illinois, where the pair play competitive tennis more than a few times a week, year-round.

According to club president Margie Pierce, a Wheaton, Ill., resident who turns 70 this month, they are not even the oldest at the club. Among a handful of octogenarians, is Gordon VanderMolen, 89, who has no plans to hang up his racket any time soon.

“Oh, Gordon can scoot,” declared Pierce. “But then, so can these two.”

Keeping active is critical, of course, to healthy aging and maintaining their game.

A study by a group of international scientists that was recently published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings ranked tennis as the top activity to add longevity to life. In addition to its obvious physical benefits, research showed there’s a critical social component to this sport that can add another decade (9.7 years) to life, far more than solitary activities such as jogging, cycling and swimming.

“It’s 6 o’clock on a Wednesday and it is snowing out and you don’t want to go out because your head hurts. But you are committed and don’t want to let people down so you go ahead and go,” said Pierce. “And by the second game you are laughing and running and glad you came.”

“It’s just a lot of fun. We meet a lot of great people and have a good time,” agreed Asta, a retired math professor at College of DuPage.

“But,” he quickly added, “we always want to win.”

“We’re very competitive,” chimed in Moulds.

With those attitudes, it comes as no surprise birthdays mean little to these senior athletes.

“It’s just another year,” said Asta.

“I don’t even pay attention to them,” added Moulds, who admitted to questioning his wife when she threw an 80th birthday party for him and invited 200 friends.

“She arranged this thing and I asked her, ‘What’s this all about?’ ” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, it’s just another day in your life as long as you get up in the morning and are breathing.”

He and Asta — married with kids and grandkids — both love family and friends, of course, but put tennis right up there with beer and running when it comes to their favorite things.

“It keeps your competitive spirit alive,” said Moulds. And that, in turn, “helps you survive.”

Speaking of which … because tennis — much like golf — has decreased in popularity from its golden era of the 1960s and ’70s, “it’s essential to our survival,” noted Pierce, “that we continue to build a strong youth group.”

At the club, Moulds noted, “you can play four hours in a day if you want.” And yes, sometimes that’s what these old-timers want.

When he’s not engaged in a match with younger athletes, “I’ll just go hit balls off a wall,” Moulds said.

“We just come to play,” he said with a shrug. “That’s the name of the game.”

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