Paul Allaire

Paul Allaire

CLEARWATER — Paul Allaire loves the Florida version of things that slide.

Back home in suburban Buffalo, where he resides half the year, it’s all about pucks on ice. Here in Clearwater, it’s all about discs on concrete.

“I just love shuffleboard,” he said as he competed Dec. 1 in the annual Florida Senior Games held at the Clearwater Shuffleboard Club. “There’s the competition that I enjoy and it keeps your mind sharp.”

In the past two Senior Games, he collected a gold medal one year in singles and the other in doubles. Those are lofty accomplishments when you consider he has to compete out of his age bracket. In Allaire’s case, most of his competition is at least 20 years younger. Allaire is 97 years old.

“And he’s darn good,” said Tony Sciacca, one of his competitors.

Allaire, a part-time resident of Clearwater’s Regency Heights mobile home park, has been playing shuffleboard for 35 years, competing about twice a week at his mobile home and at the club whenever there’s a tournament. But the club is where he calls home whether there’s competition or not – it’s a place where he loves to socialize and even talk about the sport.

“You can see his love for the game,” said Sciacca, a Largo resident. “He’s always here, whether he’s playing or not, and he’ll watch others.

“For most of us, shuffleboard is like watching paint dry if you’re not part of a game. Not for him.”

Said Allaire, “I do really enjoy the strategy. You’ve always got to be thinking about what the other guy is going to do to you. You’re always thinking ahead.”

Allaire also enjoys table tennis and still plays golf, choosing to walk 18 holes rather than take a cart, but he finds shuffleboard the perfect sport for interacting with others. He knows not everyone his age is up for those physical activities.

“This is something most everyone can do. That’s why this place is so full of energy,” he said of the shuffleboard club. “I really should have moved here permanently, because back home everyone I knew has died off on me.”

He lost his wife in 2003 but now spends time with an 86-year-old girlfriend who not only enjoys shuffleboard but works with him on a healthy and strict diet.

“People can’t believe I’m 97,” he said. “I remind them that age is just a number.”

With that, his prognosis for reaching 100 seems good. What would he like to do on that milestone birthday?

“I haven’t thought about that. I just hope I’m on the right side of the grass, and that’s not up to me,” he said. “But if I make it, I’ll probably play shuffleboard. I enjoy it that much.

“So, do you want to know if I’ll be jumping out of a plane? No way.”