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Planning Retirement Online

Out of The Box - Table Tennis                         November 2008

This is our new regular OUT OF THE BOX feature where we give suggestions on different things to try. 

If you have tried something unusual or different, tell us all about it - and send in a photograph as well if you can – so that we can share your experiences with others.



Table Tennis

table tennis

Table tennis is the game of our childhood; played at odd clubs or venues amidst a lot of shouting and hilarity.



Since then, most of us haven’t given the game another thought.

Yet table tennis is a brilliant game for older people; you can enjoy a good game in a quiet and sedate fashion or make it extremely aggressive and energetic; you can play at any level; unlike golf it is cheap and doesn’t take for ever; it is indoors so not affected by weather – really table tennis has an amazing number of plusses.

There are also a growing number of clubs around the country so most people should be able to join a group near them for a fun evening’s play once a week or a month. For those of us who prefer to be more competitive, there are local and national leagues – right up of course to the Olympics where it has been included as an official sport for decades.

The game started in the 19th century as an after dinner parlour game for wealthier Victorians. It is said that a cigar box lid was first used to hit a rounded champagne cork over books on a dining room table.

Indeed, even today a perfectly adequate game can be played on a dining room table, but it is better to have access to a proper table tennis table. Officially, this should be 2.74 metres long and 1.525m wide and 76cm above the floor.

Something most people don’t know is that the racket can be of any size, shape or weight although the blade has to be flat and rigid. An optimum shape has developed though, that little round bat with a short handle that all modern table tennis players use.

There are different grips and different strokes but unless you really are serious about beating the Chinese at the London Olympics, most people just settle for whatever is comfortable.

The key to the game is like tennis; you are trying to score points. If your opponent hits the ball into the net, misses the table or hits it onto his side of the net first, then you score a point and vice versa.

There are a few precise rules which we won’t go into here, but it is all very simple and if you join a club, it will take only a few moments to understand the basic aspects so you can enjoy a game.

Some medical people say table tennis is especially good for older people because it exercises so many different parts of the body. This is because, apart from stretching to reach the ball, you will inevitably spend quite a bit of time chasing the little bouncing ball around the room, and bending down to pick it up from various places on the floor. Even just standing at the end of the table and trying to hit the ball can be surprisingly tiring and before you know it, your sweater will be off and you will be hot with effort.

Most local clubs will play doubles so more people can play at once, and this can be a great way to socialise and make friends.

To find out about a local club, you probably need to ask around as many groups are run casually as a social event as much as a sporting occasion. Alternatively, contact the English Table Tennis Association (; or; the Scottish Table Tennis Association ( or your local sports associations to find out about your nearest clubs.

Laterlife readers: Do you belong to a club, do you have a particular interest or hobby? We would love to hear from you so that we could share your knowledge with others. Do get in contact by emailing:



table tennis grips




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