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Promoting health at the Senior Center

by Meg Dickens

When people hear about promoting health, the first thought is usually physical health. Common references include nutrition, blood pressure, sugar levels, and similar markers.
Most people do not realize a strong link between physical and mental health. At the Johnson County Senior Center, those involved work to create an improved
quality of life by promoting activities that help improve both.
One way the center has been working towards both goals is its new connection to Pickleball. The sport offers low-impact exercise paired with an atmosphere that promotes sociability. According to a report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, approximately 25 percent of seniors ages 65 and older are considered to be socially isolated, which the National Institute on Aging links with mental and physical health issues, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, anxiety, depression, and Alzheimer’s. The senior center works to combat
social isolation through various programs, such as phone reassurance, generational pen-pals, and related activities.
Pickleball promotes that type of atmosphere through its unique team dynamics. According to USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) Ambassador Kerry Straw, one of the unique parts of the sport is the rotating teams. After each match, opponents become teammates.
“You get to know each other as you play,” Straw explained. “You not only play together, but you compete against each other. It’s a sport almost anyone can play.”
Straw started instructing local seniors on pickleball several months back and has seen a significant increase in interest, often having groups of people waiting to use the courts. His most recent class drew in 30 participants, and the group has recently gained permission to turn what was meant to be a shuffleboard area into three more courts. Officials are currently working on getting all details in writing from the city to ensure everything goes as promised.
The center’s connection to the sport is not by coincidence. Senior Center Director Kathy Motsinger discovered it shortly after starting as director through the Senior Olympics while touring other centers and instantly thought locals would love it.
“Hometown Service Coalition president John Cunningham came to me,” Motsinger explained. “We had a meeting, and he asked what the center would like to see. I said Pickleball. They made it happen. I had no idea it would grow as big as it has.”
Although the current classes are geared towards seniors, other groups are welcome to come by Cunningham Park to play.
Those present always carry extra equipment and are happy to teach newcomers. For more information on Pickleball in Johnson County, join the Johnson County, TN -Pickleball Group on Facebook or reach out to Straw at (717) 943-0305.
The Johnson County Senior Center is a nonprofit organization serving seniors ages 60 and above. -Membership is free and open to the public. Volunteers of all ages are also welcome. The center is always in a flurry of activities, trips, and events. For more information, visit the website, view
the monthly newsletter, and follow the center on Facebook.