When Bethany Manor was expanding its Saskatoon seniors living facility, resident Jack Driedger wasn’t sure what to do with a new activity room.
There was talk of a metalwork shop, but Driedger, now 91, advocated for a ping pong table.
“We got in there and we said ‘what are we doing?’ We are in our eighties. We didn’t play ping pong 40, 50 years ago,” he said.
Now about one dozen seniors meet at the ping pong table regularly.
Driedger later learned of a Mayo Clinic study, which cited concentration, hand-eye coordination and precision as benefits of table tennis.
Thirty minutes of aerobic activity, five times per week, lowers the risk of cognitive decline, according to the research.
“The risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease are pretty similar to the risk factors for heart disease and stroke,” said Andrew Kirk, the head of neurology at the University of Saskatchewan.
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Kirk noted dancing is another brain-friendly activity because it incorporates exercise, memory and social interaction
But ping pong was all it took for two Bethany Manor residents to help their hearts.
“She was playing ping pong and I looked at this woman I said ‘hmm’,” Paul Enns, a Bethany Manor resident, said with a smile and laugh.
He called the woman later that day and pretty soon, the pair was “sneaking around.”
The couple insists the friendly competition resulting from table tennis hasn’t put a strain on their young marriage.
“She beats me in some moves and I beat her. We kind of play on a friendly basis,” Paul said – though Phyllis is convinced Paul always wins their matches.
Bethany Manor residents meet at the ping pong table every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 10 a.m.