The satisfying thwack of large paddles striking rigid plastic balls reverberated around the vaulted gymnasium at Kerrisdale Community Centre Monday at lunchtime.
Four men and four women who all appeared to be over age 50 played two hours of pickleball, a hybrid sport which combines elements of badminton, tennis and table tennis.
Glenys Tidy, a grey-haired 64-year-old dressed in black, lunged almost to her knee to make a powerful shot. "I love it," said the Marpole resident. "It's fast and it gives me a workout."
Player Dave Anthony, a 73-year-old resident of Marpole, said most of the participants are over 50. "I used to play three nights a week racquetball. Now I play three times a week pickleball and one racquetball," added Anthony, who suffers from knee problems. "And pretty soon racquetball will fall right off the table."
Gerry Sung, 69, who lives near South Granville, said it's a fun way to get back in shape after a heart problem.
Joe Hung, 51, who moved with his family to Kerrisdale 16 months ago from Taiwan, gave pickleball a try because he knew how to play table tennis.
Pickleball, which is typically played on a badminton court with a low net, tennis ball-sized Wiffle ball and large paddles, is an example of new activities the Kerrisdale Community Centre has introduced to respond to the area's changing population.
It started drop-in pickleball last month. "Our seniors centre traditionally has been old seniors, 80- and 90-year-olds," explained Kristi Douglas, centre programmer. "A 60-year-old is still considering themselves fairly young so they don't want to go to a place where there's an old feeling, so we're trying to come up with ways to get that group involved so it's a younger feeling down there."
Susan Mele, a recreation programmer who has worked at the Kerrisdale Community Centre for 18 years, said the centre is busier than ever serving all ages, longtime community members and newcomers. "Our seniors lunch program that used to have 40, 45 people in it now has 110 people in it on a daily basis," she said.
The centre opened a seasonal play destination with a bouncy castles, obstacle course and a slide at the Kerrisdale Arena in 2005 to accommodate the growing numbers of nannies and mothers with strollers Mele says were rare in the area 15 years ago.
Settlement workers from the school board and immigrant high school students started organizing a Chinese New Year event at the community centre four years ago. With more Asian families moving to the area, programming for youth has changed to offer more community volunteering and leadership opportunities.
Mele said the centre will be challenged to meet the needs of a growing seniors population and to draw sufficient volunteers to run programs and services. "Our 85-plus-year-olds are so used to volunteering as part of their life," Mele said. "As they're getting older and not able to continue to volunteer, we're finding a huge gap in trying to find volunteers to take over those roles."
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