Spirited adults join younger playmates at September Play Day

by Sandy Moore
photos by Molly Mehling

Stephanie Lambadakis stepped gingerly between two twirling ropes and began jumping. The double dutch team looked on nervously as their coaches swung faster and Lambadakis, age 51, picked up one foot and continued jumping without a mis-step.

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“Whoo-hoo !  All right!” came a voice from the crowd.

Stephanie grinned and continued for another minute, showing only faint signs of sweat.

“I did a LOT of double dutch when I was a kid – right here at this
school, said Lambadakis, now a CBS reporter.  At the second annual Play
Day at Takoma Middle School, adults got to try games from their past —
things like jump rope, street hockey, four square, and hopscotch.

The “Takoma Plays!” Committee, which promotes play for all ages,
encouraged adults to attend the Play Day along with their much younger
counterparts.

Intergenerational Tennis

Colleen DiPaul, age 83, seizes an opportunity to play intergenerational games whenever she gets a chance.

“We have intergenerational tennis on Sunday afternoons,” says Colleen,
“my son, my grandson and I.”  Inspired by the recent memory, Colleen ran
to her car to fetch a racket and soon was on the court, playing doubles
with grandson Niko and Play Day organizer Pat Rumbaugh. As if to prove
the adage “you’re as young as you feel”, Colleen danced to the distant
rap music in between volleys. 

Street Hockey

Nearby on the tennis courts, Takoma Park resident Jim Clark chased his
five-year old twins, Nathan and Sophie around with a street hockey
stick.

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“I played street hockey in middle school in Long Beach California, said
Jim, “a LONG, long time ago.  We had a gymnasium with a wood floor.” 
Nathan and Sophie were attacking the plastic puck on the asphalt –
seemingly oblivious to the 90-degree heat. “I guess Nathan was expecting
an amusement park, but he’s getting used to it,” said Jim with a smile.

Gardening for Fitness

The Play Day also hosted a Master Gardener, AnnaMae Rumbaugh, who came
all the way from Pennsylvania to talk about her favorite kind of play
activity:  digging in the dirt.  She dispensed gardening advice from
behind a table near the hub of Play Day activity.

The connection between gardening and fitness may not be obvious, but
hefting heavy bags of mulch is a work out!

Researchers have found that
adults ages 63 to 86 who engage in gardening activities (such as
digging, weeding, trimming, and mowing) for 30-45 minutes most days of
the week meet will meet the exercise requirements for seniors
recommended by the Centers for Disease Control.

Says 78-year-old AnnaMae: “I never eat much before sundown because I
love playing in the garden so much – and I’m not willing to stop until
it gets dark!”

Board Games: The Brain Gym

While AnnaMae likes outdoor play, octogenarian Mary Feldman (90 years
young) is happier playing board games.    A resident of Takoma Park’s
Victory Towers, Feldman spent Play Day in the Middle School cafeteria,
keeping her mind fit.  Feldman challenged person after person to games
of Rummikub – a favorite of hers.  She plays games with young people on
Tuesday nights at the Towers, where volunteers regularly show up to play
board games.

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“I think that mental activity is vital for physical health and games are
one way to do it — and besides, they are fun!” says Mary, who had just
won her second game of Rummikub, against 19-year old Cheney Ravitz.

Silly, Sweaty, Not Sedentary

Takoma Park Recreation Committee member Kay Daniels-Cohen (in Elton John-like glitter glasses and a red-sequined vest) came dressed to PLAY.  Parents joined pre-schoolers for a spirited game of “Simon Says” led by Takoma Park Children’s Librarian Karen McPherson.   In the gym, adult dancers struggled to keep up with Zumba instructor Edurama, whose fast-paced routine seemed to energize young children — and exhaust their parents.

Lambidakis expressed a view shared by many parents: “The computer makes them sedentary, and that’s a big problem. If you turn it off, you’ve got to wait until the bellyaching stops, and they’ll find something else to do . . . “

Of course it’s true for adults as well – we’re often “plugged in”  and sedentary.  However, with the exception of a stray Blackberry, most adults seemed unplugged at the Middle School event — perhaps the first step towards a more playful lifestyle.

Whether working out in the brain gym or serving on the tennis court, adults gathered at the middle school Play Day proved they’re good playmates – – they just need a little more time to practice.

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