As thousands of people across the country scramble to lose weight and get fit at the beginning of the year, a group of residents at a retirement development in Brighton have found a unique and fun way of improving their health and wellbeing.
While many of the New Year’s resolutions crowd head to the gym, staff and residents from Hanover Housing Associations's Patching Lodge estate have set up weekly table tennis lessons to help them keep in shape, remain physically active and enjoy the social get together with their neighbours.
Some persistent fundraising efforts and a timely grant from the Sussex Community Foundation, as part of their Brighton & Hove Community Health Fund, have helped residents secure £1,500 for table tennis equipment.
Caroline Carter, Support Assistant, Hanover Housing Association said: ‘We are always looking for different activities to encourage residents to keep fit and have fun, so table tennis seemed to fit the bill perfectly.
‘Before applying for the grant I contacted Brighton Table Tennis Club to see if they would be interested in running weekly sessions at Patching Lodge for our residents and people from the local community. They were very keen to forge links with the older community and agreed to provide two instructors.’
Residents are very fortunate, as both instructors are table tennis champions. Harry Fairchild is a UK national singles champion and European men's doubles champion - in 2016 he also became the first person in the world with Down's syndrome to pass his Level 1 coaching qualification. His coaching partner at Patching Lodge is Wen Wei, one of the founders of the Brighton Table Tennis Club and three-time UK-Chinese champion.
The sessions were going so well that Hanover staff were able to apply for additional grant funding to purchase an additional table tennis table, with view to setting one table up especially for wheelchair users.
Among the first residents to benefit from the lessons were Betty Hughes and Peggy Brown. Peggy did not think that she would be able to use a racket due to the limited mobility in her arm and hand, but with encouragement to participate from the Patching Lodge team, the regular exercise means she can now serve the ball, hit returns and take part in a rally.
She said: ‘I really enjoy my table tennis lessons. Thanks to Harry and Wen, the exercise and increased movement in my hands means I’m much more able to carry out daily tasks such as washing, cleaning and shopping.’
Another resident, 97-year-old Betty Hughes, is fiercely competitive and has reached well over 100 rallies as she takes on residents and members of her local community. She said: ‘Table tennis is a fantastic sport. I particularly like playing doubles as it allows me to catch up with good friends while satisfying my competitive nature!’
Tim Holtam, Director of BTTC, said: ‘The weekly table tennis sessions at Patching Lodge prove that the game can be enjoyed by absolutely everyone, of all ages. The club is only 100 metres away from Patching Lodge and this is our most local bit of 'outreach' work. Harry and Wen Wei love coming up and socialising with everyone at Patching Lodge. Five of the players from the sessions have made it down the road to play more at the Brighton Table Tennis Club in the Fitzherbert's Centre.’
Sussex Community Foundation raises funds and makes grants to local charities and community groups that encourage active living, support healthy ageing and improve the quality of life for older people across East and West Sussex and Brighton and Hove. Established in 2006, it has given over £11.5 million in grants to over 1,500 community groups.
Patching Lodge provides high quality, modern living accommodation for older people who want to retain their independence with some additional support in place. There is a team of professional carers on-site who are able to provide the care that people need to enable them to live independently.