Several residents at Colonial Harbor retirement community in York County could recall a time they had played table tennis.
For most, the memories were from their childhoods — one man said the last time he played was more than 60 years ago.
On Thursday afternoon, Ping Pong Gives Charity Foundation and Greg Garrett Realty surprised about 25 residents in the lobby by donating a playing table.
The donation was the 17th table for Ping Pong Gives, and the first for a Peninsula retirement community, said charity founder and volunteer president Ken Lees. The program has benefited several retirement communities in South Hampton Roads.
Neuropsychologist and Board Chairman Scott Sautter says the primary needs for brain health are physical activity, mental activity and social activity.
“If you think about it, pingpong does all of those things,” Sautter said. “You can’t play by yourself so it’s social — and it’s physical — but it’s also mental because you have to strategize and plan your shots.”
Sautter says he’s taken to calling the game “aerobic chess.”
Lees continued to educate the residents about the benefits of table tennis, including using it as a clinically validated way to improve mental health, while they took turns playing at the table.
“I’m excited about it because it’s exercise, but also something I could get better at,” resident Joan Jakubczak said.
She was among the first residents to use the table.
She said the last time she played she was a child. When her grandson visits, they play pool together, and she said she is looking forward to playing table tennis with him as well.
“We’re hoping as more communities get on board with (table tennis), we can start to hold tournaments,” resident experience coordinator Sharon Springer said.
Lees said the foundation wants to add more tables to retirement communities in the Peninsula area and is seeking donors and interested communities.
Westminster-Canterbury on Chesapeake Bay in Virginia Beach previously received a table tennis table, which they’ve used to start a club, Sautter said. And they’ve held a tournament with Atlantic Shores Retirement Community.
As they wait for some local competition, the residents were excited to hear that table tennis would be added to their weekly activity calendar.
There will be staff around during the activity time to help retrieve the balls and minimize the risk of falling.
The playing table is something that will last a lifetime, said director of senior support Micah Hunt. He said he was impressed by all table tennis could offer seniors.
“Everywhere we go — we saw that here today — people just laugh and have a great time,” Sautter said. “They reminisce about an activity they did as a child and then realize it’s actually good for them.”
Jessica Nolte, 757-247-4513, firstname.lastname@example.org, @jessicamnolte