Mary L. Price and Fred Whitaker played a spirited game of shuffleboard yesterday while Elsie Fleming, 62, and Gertrude Watson, 63, shuffled cards for a game of bid whist.

Ralph Plummer, 85, whose heart condition prevents involvement in strenuous activity, sat quietly with friends. Not far away, Gladys Thompson, 63, and Isabelle McBride, 71, splashed playfully in a large swimming pool.

Around them, a gentle breeze stirred oak and pine shade trees, and sunlight glistened on the lake.

This is Camp Happyland, a sprawling, 215-acre recreation camp owned by the Salvation Army and located 85 miles south of Washington near Culpeper, Va.

Five years ago the camp, traditionally open to young people, began a program for the elderly. Although the program initially lasted three to four days, it was reduced to a one-day outing in 1976 so participants can return home the same day.

With the enthusiasm of schoolchildren, 214 senior citizens, primarily from inner-city Washington, boarded six yellow school buses yesterday morning and left for a day in the country. The outing was the first of a series of five planned for each Wednesday through Aug. 9.

Many of the campers had attended before and came equipped with such items as fishing tackle, thermos jugs and straw hats.

"The whole idea is to give the senior citizens an opportunity to get away from their everyday experiences. The camp gives them a chance to get some exercise and to meet other people," said Salvation Army Capt. William Crabson, camp director.

The day's activities included horseshoe pitching, swimming, hayrides, softball, fishing, canoeing, table games and crafts.

But Mary Calloway, 64, and her husband, Zeke, 73, a retired construction worker said they came simply "to eat and watch the other people."

"We came last year and just enjoyed watching the other senior citizens do things," said Zeke Calloway, who wore a gray suit, white shirt and black bowtie. The Calloways were among several persons who sat under shade trees and talked for most of the day.

On the banks of the camp's lake, Leola Moon, 68, who brought her own cane fishing pole, was busily angling for perch and bass. With the first nibble on her line, she pulled in a small fish that fell off the hook and flopped back into the water.

Moon was among about two dozen senior campers who decided to go fishing. Most were supplied with tackle and bait by the camp.

Albert M. Baker, 79, a former psychology professor at the University of Southern California who walks with crutches, said he made the trip to keep active and to meet people.

"It's very important for me to keep moving," said Baker, who lives at in the 2400 block of Franklin Street NE. "This trip gives me a chance to get some exercise and to talk with a lot of people I would never have met otherwise.

One of the most active persons on yesterday's trip was Beulah Woods, 78, a resident of Garfield Terrace in the 2300 block of 11th Street NW. "It's wonderful for us to be able to get out and play softball, go fishing or play cards with friends," said Wood, a former waitress.

"A lot of older people are thinking about dying. I'm thinking about living and enjoying every minute of it," said Wood, who said her favorite activity is dancing.

Many of the senior citizens agreed that one of the day's most enjoyable activities was the hayride. A 20-passenger trailer was pulled gently around the campground by a tractor.

Lyda Williams, who sat alone on a blacket spread under a pine tree, said the most exciting experience of her was finding a collection of small holly and cedar plants that she plans to grow at home.

Everett L. Jeffries, 67, sat for awhile watching people fish. Then he stopped for a moment to watch several elderly swimmers in the pool.

When he came to the horsehoe pits, Jeffries came alive. He picked up a set of shoes and began playing the game by himself. "Now this is something that I'm pretty good at," said Jeffries, who said he recently won a D.C. Recreation Department trophy for horsehoe pitching.