This all started when I saw a news story on a senior center where the residents were playing Pickleball and I thought it looked like fun. Where have I been? There are Pickleball courts all over town that I knew nothing about. One of the most popular is less than a mile away, so I went down to watch. Wow! It’s in a senior center that uses a church area and gym and offers a wealth of programming for old folks (defined as 50 & over).

OK. I know I’m a senior, hopefully, a young seeming senior. This place was inspiring, positively inspiring. First, I joined at the crazy low price of $25 a year. A year! I started walking because they have an indoor track that circles over the gym floor, allowing me to watch all the various activities. And, then I took Pickleball lessons from the dynamite 81 year old instructor, who was obviously a gym teacher in her previous life. I also learned she had been a nun, so double whammy of discipline there.

In this place, I’m kind of in the middle of the age groups, so I fit right in. Nobody hesitates to welcome you or visit with you, so I jumped into Pickleball, where I’m also in the middle of the skill ranges at this point. Pickleball is a cross between tennis, badminton and ping pong, played with a paddle and a whiffle ball on a short court. I always feel like I’m on a giant ping pong table due to the sound of hitting the ball.

Don’t let the fact that I’ve been playing with 70 and 80 year olds make you think that these people can’t play. Good grief! One of the first people I talked to was a woman who retired last year after working 54 years for the same company. 54 Years! Unheard of for today’s workers. She retired because she had a stroke, but she’s recovered except for a little memory loss. I’d say she has also had knee problems from the way she moves. Anyway, she told me she also plays on the women’s basketball team in the 75-80 bracket and then she spotted a woman she said is on her bowling team. I will say she doesn’t always move fast on the Pickleball court, but she can sure hit the ball hard.

I played with a gentleman who I estimate to be 83 (my firm wild guess). He slowly walks onto the court and then, WHAM! I couldn’t believe this guy. He doesn’t move fast to the ball, but he hits hard with strategic shots. Several of the other women, good players I have played, with have asked him to go soft for us. Very deceptive, these old people. The line to play is always long, so they play fair with everyone changing partners every game and nobody is too obnoxiously competitive so far. Of course, I don’t play on the Advanced play days, so they may change in those games. This lady told me she’s been playing a  year and she’s good. I think she’s finally accepted me as a player and won’t wince when we end up together. She also told me she sometimes lets shots go by because she doesn’t feel like running for them. My kind of player.

IMG_7773At the end of a game, the players meet at the net to touch paddles and tell each other what a good game it was. Very fun. You’ll note the knee brace on one player. I watched a game stop for a minute last week when a lady’s pacemaker came undone. She hooked it up and kept playing. She’s another very good player.IMG_7781From my walking vantage point, I watch some of the other activities, such as Tai Chi, a great activity for balance and strength. There is also Zumba Gold, a low impact dance exercise class. Watching these ladies, listening to the variety of music to which they were moving, I realized that these ladies were always dancers. They did ballroom, swing, cha cha and rhumba, Western line dances, and rock & roll. These ladies did the Twist when they were young and now they’re moving to those same tunes. They cooled down to Frank Sinatra after some faster numbers and I thought of how many dances they had been to in their lifetimes and how many of them were probably dancing without their life long partners these days since the women do tend to outlive the men, no matter what we’d like to think. The memories moving to this music must bring to mind…IMG_7725Another day, I walked my two miles very quickly, watching a Functional Movement class that made me tired to think about. These ladies were bending and pulling in ways that I’m not sure I could do or even want to try, although I should. In this one, they walked with a partner who pulled on the giant rubber band to give them resistance. That’s not so bad, but the floor exercises…IMG_7782Today, I walked while the basketball teams warmed up, watching gray and white haired ladies make basket after basket as they practiced their drills. I don’t know if they played a game or not, but the drills were fun to watch. They all arrived with their own basketballs, which is so amazing to me, although I have my own Pickleball paddle now.IMG_7813These aren’t the only ones moving or active around the place. There is a small gym with exercise equipment, Yoga, and seated exercise and seated Yoga classes which are always full, plus activities for the mind. There is Bridge, Mah Jongg, Skip-Bo, Canasta, a knitting group and a painting group. One of my friends goes to a group called Stories, where people meet to share memories and stories. Some of them bring things to read, others tell stories, some share things they have written. One lady in her 90s reads poetry she writes. There are several 90+ year olds in this group with a great collection of memories to share. And, of course, there are Pot Luck lunch on Fridays.

I find this group so inspiring to watch and be a minor part of, especially since these are my peeps after all. It’s also a nice contrast to the days when I work on the university campus and feel every bit my age watching the students pass me by. I have a lot of things going on in my life, so I’m just walking and playing Pickleball, unlike some of them who are there every day for many things. Mostly, I love seeing that they laugh and share and think and remember and play and, most of all, move! We all need to move, no matter what our age. And, I like movin’ with these nice people. I’ll let you know if I get good enough for the Advanced group in Pickleball. I’m not sure I’m old enough!