Breaking news just in — growing old doesn’t mean an end to participation in sports. Whether you’ve played sports before or not, it’s never too late to start. Body and mind may have slowed, however, so you might be wondering what the best sports for elderly people are.
The best sports for elderly people to play are those you can adapt to suit your physical abilities. Look for low-impact sports that don’t strain your joints. The best sports also have a social element, which helps mental health. Some of the best sports are swimming, shuffleboard, and walking soccer.
So, you don’t need to let old age turn you into a couch potato. If you can’t think of a sport you want to do, this article is just what you need. To make it easy for you, you’ll find details below of the eight best sports for elderly people to play.
In swimming, you have one of the best sports for elderly people, especially if you have mobility problems. It’s a no-impact sport, so it’s gentle on your joints, and when swimming, you’re exercising all your muscles. That means you’re getting a whole-body workout with just one sport.
Strengthening your muscles is important when you consider that as you age, you lose about 10% of muscle mass for each decade over the age of thirty. This is partly due to the natural aging process, but the tendency towards increasing inactivity as you get older is also a significant factor.
If you ever wondered why, as you aged, everything seemed that much harder to do, there’s your answer. Strengthening your muscles will benefit your overall health. You’ll feel stronger, and you’ll be providing protection to your joints.
What’s so good about swimming is that it doesn’t matter if you struggle with mobility due, for example, to arthritis. The water will support your body, easing the strain on your joints. So, you’ll find swimming more comfortable and easier than getting around on dry land.
Swimming is also excellent for heart health, making you less susceptible to heart disease. Being fitter will mean you won’t feel out of breath so quickly, so you’ll feel more energized, and you’ll find everyday tasks much easier to cope with.
Also, aerobic exercise like swimming can help you get to or maintain a healthy weight. Doing that doesn’t just mean less stress on your joints. It also means there’s less strain on your heart.
Like most exercises, swimming can improve your general wellbeing, and it’s not just because of the exercise. Swimming can also be a very social sport, whether you swim with family and friends or join a class. Swimming can increase your social contact, which can lift your spirits and improve your mental health.
Can’t swim? Sorry, but that’s no excuse. You can learn or use buoyancy aids to help you float. Remember, you don’t have to limit your pool time to swimming lengths. You can add variation by taking a water exercise class or even just walking in the water.
Switching to dry land, the classic Italian game of bocce ball is an excellent sport for elderly people to play. It’s easy to learn, so it’s a sport you can get going with very quickly. It’s a ball-tossing game where the objective is to get your ball closer to the target ball, or pallino, than your opponent.
In case you’ve never come across the game before, watch this video for a quick run-through of the simple rules:
The great thing about the game is that you don’t need a proper bocce ball court to play on. It’s great if there’s one near you, but if not, then you can use any space you can find. That may be in your backyard, or it might be in a public park, for example.
Bocce ball is ideal for getting elderly people outside and socializing. You need at least two players, but you can have up to eight. If you have more players, you could run a mini-tournament to spice things up.
The game will bring out your competitive instincts without being overly physical. Although bocce is a gentle exercise, you do get to develop your hand-eye coordination. That’s something that can deteriorate as we age.
You don’t need to spend a lot of money to get started playing bocce ball. This Rally and Roar Bocce Ball Set comes in three ball sizes. You also get a measuring tool, so it has everything you need to play straight away.
While bocce ball is made for playing outdoors, you can improvise an indoor game for those rainy days. In the following clip, you’ll see the players used rolled-up socks:
So, it’s a flexible, informal game that you can really enjoy anywhere.
Another excellent backyard sport for elderly people is croquet. It’s a gentle way to get outdoors, exercise, and socialize at the same time.
Again, you’ll put your hand-eye coordination to the test, as you need to knock your ball through narrow hoops using a long-handled wooden mallet. So, it involves a bit of knee bending, but not too much. You can generally swing the mallet in an upright position. There’s no twisting and turning, and you don’t need a significant swing action.
There are rules to follow when playing croquet, but really, it’s up to you if you want to stick to them or play to your own rules. However, for an explanation of the rules, there’s a useful video below:
While you can play croquet wherever you have some available space, you will need to buy the equipment, but it won’t break the bank. Try to get a set that comes with a bag, like this GoSports Six Player Croquet Set. It makes transporting the set around a whole lot easier.
With croquet, not only will you get a bit of outdoor exercise, but you’ll also give your mind a workout. You’ll need to think strategically, whether it’s seeing how you can strike your opponent’s ball or lining up your team’s balls to get more than one through a hoop with one strike—or both, but that will take some practice. You can easily end up hooked on this game.
Additionally, it doesn’t matter if you come up against younger players. Age just doesn’t matter in croquet! You can play it with only two to six players, and with each player playing for themselves or as part of a team. Either way, it’s a really sociable sport for elderly people to play.
The court-based game uses a stick-like tool called a tang to push the discs, or biscuits, along the court. So, you won’t need to do a lot of bending, even though the court is at floor level. Also, you don’t need to search for a facility that has a shuffleboard court. You can buy a roll-out court that you can use at home.
This Allen R. Shuffleboard Co., Inc. Home Shuffleboard Court Package is a good example. It’s ideal for getting up and running, playing outdoors very quickly. It’s just over half the length of a full outdoor court, but it’s a great option if you can’t find a full-size court to play on. However, you will need a hard flat surface on which to roll out the court.
As you can see from the following video explaining the rules, you’ll be using a gentle lunging action to push the biscuit, so you won’t strain your joints playing:
If you opt for the table game, it’s more likely you’ll be playing indoors. As the game is table-based, it’s ideal for elderly people who find bending a struggle.
This short video explains how to play the table-top version:
As you can see, the markings on a shuffleboard table differ from those of the court-based game, but the overall objective is still the same. You slide your puck down the table, trying to place it in the highest-scoring zone.
If you can’t find somewhere to play, you can buy a shuffleboard table for your home. You’ll need a bit of space, as you can see from this Atomic 9’ Platinum Shuffleboard Table. You will need a level surface for it, but this one has levelers in the legs, so you can make adjustments as needed.
In both versions of shuffleboard, tactics play a big part. As well as trying to get your disc in the highest-scoring zones, you can play to disrupt your opponent.
So, you can try to nudge their puck onto a line or even right out of the playing area. You’ll need to work your brain thinking about angles. You’ll then have to control your pushing action to apply just the right momentum to outmaneuver your opponent.
Walking soccer is a simple variation of the real thing, but the variation is what makes it one of the best sports for elderly people to play. The name should give it away — no running allowed.
Even though you’re walking, you’ll still get a good workout from this sport because walking doesn’t have to mean the pace is slow. You’ll see what we mean in the following clip:
There may be other rules to follow as well. Most commonly, the ball needs to be kept below head height, and instead of throw-ins when the ball goes out of play, you have kick-ins. Also, absolutely no sliding tackles, you’ll be pleased to hear.
Walking soccer is a great way to level the playing field, so having mixed-sex teams is common. Apart from a football, you don’t need any special equipment. So, you can easily play with friends and family in the backyard or a public park.
Walking football is an ideal way to get some aerobic exercise without putting too much stress on your joints. So, you’ll boost your heart health while taking part in a highly sociable game. That should dispel feelings of loneliness, so you’ll feel fitter and improve your mental health all in one shot. Let’s call that a goal.
The ever-popular game of golf is an ideal sport for elderly people to play, with very good reason. It gets you out walking, and it also exercises your upper body, particularly your arms, back, and shoulders. It’s an even greater workout if you carry your bag or pull your trolley.
Even if you have trouble walking distances, you can use a motorized cart to get about, as needed, but you’ll still benefit from the upper body workout and being outside in the fresh air.
Of course, playing golf also involves hand-eye coordination and concentration if you want to strike the ball just right to get it where you want it to go. With each shot, you’ll visualize how you’re going to swing and where you’re going to send the ball. That calls for focusing your mind and controlling your thoughts.
You’ll also need to assess distances, wind direction, and speed. Plus, you’ll need to think about angles and slopes, which can affect how you hit the ball. In short, you’ll be working your brain as much as your body when playing golf.
Of course, golf is an excellent way to socialize and stay connected with the world. This adds to the mental health benefits of being outdoors.
Even if you’ve played golf before, you might find that standard clubs are heavy to handle. The reduced strength that comes with aging can also impact the speed of your swing. That can affect the distance you can hit the ball.
If you do find yourself struggling with standard golf clubs, you’ll be pleased to know that you can buy clubs made especially for older players.
Just one example is this Majek Senior Ladies Right-Handed Golf Clubs Set for older female players. The increased flexibility in the shafts makes it easier for an elderly player to get a good distance on each shot. They’re also designed to be more forgiving, with a larger sweet spot.
This type of adaptation helps make golf one of the best sports for elderly people to play.
Archery isn’t a sport you hear mentioned often, yet it’s a perfect sport for elderly people to play. It’s one of those sports where age doesn’t matter. While you might think that standing in one spot shooting an arrow doesn’t sound very active, you’ll be surprised at how physical it is.
Remember, archery isn’t like shooting a gun. You have to draw the arrow back in the bow, and that’s something that exercises your upper body. When you draw the bow back, you’ll feel your arms, shoulders, and chest muscles working against the tension of the bow.
Then, of course, you have to hold the drawn bow until you’re happy with your aim, so you’ll really feel those muscles work. Simultaneously, you need to maintain your posture and balance, so your lower body is also working to keep you steady.
These are actions you’ll repeat over and over each time you fire an arrow. That repetition is a bit like doing a workout with weights in the gym, so you’ll build your strength with every shot. Toss in a bit of walking to retrieve your arrows, and you’ve got a great physical workout.
However, there’s more! Because archery will also exercise your mind as it’s a sport that will test your powers of concentration. You’ll need great focus to line up your shot while also maintaining your posture amidst everything that’s going on around you.
Archery is also a sport you can play indoors or out, so you can get out in the sunshine when the weather’s good. You can keep playing even once the weather turns, so it’s a game for all seasons in every sense.
If you’ve never heard of pickleball, you’re probably in the minority. It’s been growing fast in recent years. Indeed, the national championships held in 2019 attracted around 28,000 spectators, and the body that runs the sport claims it has nearly 40,000 members.
Not bad for a sport that only came into being in 1965. So, what is it, and why is it one of the best sports for seniors to play? Well, it’s a bit of a hybrid, falling somewhere between tennis, badminton, and ping pong. For instance, the court is smaller than a tennis court but larger than a ping pong table.
Instead of racquets or bats, you use paddles that are larger than a ping pong bat but smaller than a tennis racquet. Also, the ball is about tennis ball size but made of perforated plastic.
With the court being smaller than a tennis court, pickleball is great for young and old alike. It’s particularly suitable for elderly players because there’s less ground to cover, yet it provides a great workout.
Watch the following video if you want proof that you’re never too old to start playing pickleball:
It’s also easy to learn and play without the need to spend hours practicing. Of course, you’ll need to use hand-eye coordination, but this will improve the more you play. Pickleball does come with its own rules. For example, the service is underhand only. Also, after the serve, the ball has to bounce once on each side of the court before anyone can volley it.
You’ll need to get to grips with several other rules, but they’re easy to pick up. You’ll find a quick explanation of them in the following clip:
All in all, pickleball is one of the best sports for elderly people to play because it’s active and sociable, so you’ll benefit physically and mentally.
As you’ve seen, these sports will keep you physically active, helping to minimize the muscle loss that naturally occurs as we age. More muscle means improved strength and stability, reducing the risk of falls.
The exercise you’ll get from these sports may also help slow the cognitive decline that comes with age. Additionally, staying physically active can improve overall mental health, especially if it gets you outdoors or mixing with other people.
So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and play!
- NCBI: Muscle Tissue Changes With Aging
- Hindawi: Physical Activity, Mental Health, and Wellbeing among Older Adults in South and Southeast Asia: A Scoping Review
- Swim England: 4 Adult Swimming Aids to Help You Learn
- WebMD: Water Aerobics
- Wikipedia: Bocce
- Youtube: How to Play Bocce Ball
- OUP: Effect of Aging on Adaptive Eye-Hand Coordination
- Amazon: Rally and Roar Bocce Ball Set
- Youtube: Physed At Home Bocce Ball
- Wikipedia: Croquet
- Youtube: How to Play Croquet
- Amazon: GoSports Six Player Croquet Set
- Wikipedia: Shuffleboard
- Wikipedia: Table Shuffleboard
- Amazon: Roll Out 28’ Shuffleboard Court, Shuffleboard Cues, 8 4 Tournament Discs
- Youtube: Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club: Tutorial
- Youtube: How to Play Shuffleboard
- Youtube: Walking Soccer
- Amazon: Majek Senior Ladies Right-Handed Golf Clubs Set
- USA Pickleball: History of the Game
- Pickleball Fix: Pickleball Court Dimensions: A Helpful Guide
- Youtube: 90-year-old Plays Pickleball for More than Just Fun
- Youtube: How to: Play Pickleball
- Hindawi: A Review of the Effects of Physical Activity and Exercise on Cognitive and Brain Functions in Older Adults