Joan James from Haddington Table Tennis Club

Sport for life

Joan, 96, urges peers to keep active through table tennis

Joan James has just celebrated her 96th birthday but thanks to her local table tennis club, she is as active as ever. Having returned to the sport two years ago, she's now encouraging her peers to enjoy the many benefits of staying active.

Returning to sport

As part of a Big Lottery-funded pilot project in 2016, Haddington Table Tennis Club ran a taster session in the lounge of the sheltered housing complex where Joan lives. She went along to watch but was reluctant to take part, concerned about her balance. 

With a little encouragement and her walker behind her, she picked up a bat, gripping the table firmly with one hand. She began to laugh. It had been more than 60 years since she last played.

Joan now plays once a week in the lounge with several residents of the complex, where the session is all about fun, activity and laughter. With help from the site manager she encourages other residents - many of whom have long-term health conditions - to take part and has been known to force the maintenance man to have a hit when nobody else is available.

She also plays at the over-50s afternoon class at Haddington Table Tennis once a week - it’s a 400m walk from her house but she refuses to take a lift. The combination of gentle exercise, a good blether and a cup of tea is the perfect mix. 

Joan says:

“Table tennis has given me a new lease of life. It has helped me make lots of new friends and it gets me out of my house.”

A true inspiration

Joan attended the UK Coaching Conference at Oriam, Scotland's sports performance centre, in June 2018 to take part in an over-50s table tennis demonstration event.

She had a chance to play against Dame Katherine Grainger, the Olympic champion rower and chair of UK Sport, who described Joan as “a true inspiration”.

Joan is also keen to encourage others to follow in her footsteps and get back into sport and physical activity.

“My advice to others is simple – keep moving. Once you sit down for too long it is hard to get going again.

“If you ever played table tennis when you were young, come on and pick up a bat, give it a go.”

Find out more

The club is part of Haddington Community Sport Hub and has been supported by Direct Club Investment through sportscotland, as well as funding from the Big Lottery Fund and Awards For All. This has enabled the club to develop both junior and over 50s sections, providing opportunities for members of the local community to get active. 

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