Coast seniors have many ways to have fun

G. TREMAIN MERRELL/SPECIAL TO THE SUN HERALDBen and Lucille Gibson, center, teach urban-style ballroom dancing.
G. TREMAIN MERRELL/SPECIAL TO THE SUN HERALDBen and Lucille Gibson, center, teach urban-style ballroom dancing.

Mississippi Coast seniors have plenty of recreation options, including participating in walking clubs, arts organizations, fitness clubs and gardening clubs. Many seniors, however, hoping to fend off the possibility of weight gain from a sedentary lifestyle, opt to participate in physically active hobbies to entertain themselves.

In any case, health is a big concern for seniors. Many worry about immobility, fragile bones and even fatigue, but several area seniors are taking on the challenge of combining health and entertainment.

Ben and Lucille Gibson

Ben and Lucille Gibson, originally from Michigan, retired on the Coast years ago and brought their much-loved pastime with them -- urban-style ballroom dancing.

"Urban style is a little different from the traditional ballroom," Ben Gibson said. "Foxtrot, waltz, the salsa are some of the others. We dance to R&B music, soul music, a little jazz. We dance to music with a beat."

Lucille Gibson said urban-style ballroom dancing appeals to many people, from young adults to seniors, but that many younger adults complain that the senior citizens dance too long without a break, sometimes up to two hours.

The Gibsons encourage people to attend their dance sessions, which are offered at several sites:

South Mississippi Ballroom Dancers -- Urban Style, 6 to 8 p.m. Mondays, Randolph Center, Randolph Community Center, 315 Clark Ave., Pass Christian; 10 a.m. to noon Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Isiah Fredericks Community Center, 3312 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Gulfport; 6:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays Paralyzed Veterans Center, 15489 Dedeaux Road, Gulfport. Details: 206-5510.

The Rev. James Beal

The Rev. James Beal, 62, pastor of Little Rock Baptist Church in Gulfport, said he loves to play tennis and has been playing for more than 20 years. He said he believes the sport has allowed him to maintain the same weight since high school.

"I pretty much eat what I wanna eat," he said. "If you walk two to three times a week for 30 minutes you're pretty much burning off what you're eating."

Beal said he plays tennis about twice a week for at least two hours. He said tennis is a game of strategy and fitness.

However, he suggests that anyone of any age who wants to start playing tennis should start off walking and exercising first, because tennis is a strenuous activity.

Llewellyn LaBauve

Llewellyn LaBauve, 58, who now lives in Pensacola, said the pastime he most enjoys is fishing.

"While living in Biloxi we loved to go saltwater fishing," LaBauve said. "If the sun went down, and it was a cool 70 degrees, we would go fishing."

He said his favorite spot to fish when he is on the Coast is Horn Island or Ship Island. Never one to fish just for sport, LaBauve said he tries to eat whatever he catches.

"If it's not edible, we release them back," he said.

LaBauve said he believes fishing is good for exercise as well as relaxation. He said the main reason he finds it relaxing is it gives him time to spend with his family.

Henry Hartley

Henry Hartley, 67, of Gulfport, said he loves to bowl and has been bowling for about 40 years.

"It's very relaxing, especially when you're winning," Hartley said.

As a senior, Hartley said he has bowled five perfect games and would consider going pro but there is a lot of training involved.

He said he bowls because he loves it. Hartley said he likes to bowl at the local Island Strikz Lanes, but loves to bowl at Keesler Air Force Base. He said he has bowled throughout the Northeast and achieved many goals, but if there were one thing he could do, it would be to earn

one more perfect game ring.

He said he would recommend bowling as a healthy activity for both the young and the old.

Larry and Beulah Marks

Larry and Beulah Marks, 60, of Gulfport, enjoy bicycle riding and ride once a week on Saturday mornings. They also try to catch the Gulf Coast Bike Club of Ocean Springs on the first Saturday of each month.

"We usually load the bikes up on the back of the Jeep and go over there and park in their downtown park," Beulah Marks said. "They have a bike route, and we go over on the beach. It's just a beautiful, scenic ride."

"Now, this morning we're gonna to ride to the harbor and back, but we'll stop by at the Fleur de Lis Bakery and get some coffee and croissants," Larry Marks said. "We'll add on what we take off!"

No matter the age, size or interest, there is nearly always something seniors can do to stay active. The secret is to find out what your passion is and get serious about it. Remember to pace yourself and consult your physician before taking on any new activities. Most important, have fun.