How Pickleball Is Changing 'Active Aging'

April 21, 2024

Pickleball is having a transformative effect on thousands of Baby Boomers, allowing them to rediscover their zest for sport, physical activity and social interaction — or, in some cases, experience it for the first time in their lives.


Word is spreading about pickleball's innate qualities as an accessible and easy-to-learn sport which can be enjoyed by anyone, regardless of age, skill level, physical capability, social demographics or previous sports experience.

Statistics from DUPR’s player database show that 31.1% of our registered active (i.e., competitive) players are 60 or over, with the oldest to register high match counts aged 83. 


For example, take Kath Knowles from Anglesey, an island off the north coast of Wales, who had lived for 67 years without ever playing in competitive sports — until she discovered pickleball.

Kath Knowles from Anglesey, Wales


Kath has overcome breast cancer, suffered from mental health issues, went through a divorce and had a heart attack before pickleball brought her what she calls "a wonderful release" late in life. She had a second heart attack on the pickleball court in January 2021 and required two further stents to be fitted. However, her love for the sport is unwavering.


Kath has since led the growth of pickleball on Anglesey and across North Wales, introducing over 200 people to the sport via taster sessions, taking it into schools, helping to train coaches and leaders and accompanying a happy group of players to national competitions. 


“I dragged people in off the streets!” she laughs. “I was determined to encourage others to get off their bums and play this game that had brought sport into my life. This game is truly addictive and the friendship and social interaction is quite unique. What pickleball has done for me is immense. Without it, I’d just be a moaning old biddy!”


At West Herts Wizards Pickleball Club in Hertfordshire, north of London, 76% of members are over the age of 55. One player in his 70s has dementia but still participates every week, accompanied by his sister. 


Wizards’ Club Secretary, Lyn Epps, says: "He was an excellent tennis player back in the day, and his natural racquet skills come to the fore. Neither he, nor his sister, would mind me saying he never knows what the score is, and we repeat the rules regarding the non-volley zone over and over, to ensure the game goes well and everyone’s happy!"


Sue Nicol founded South Suffolk Pickleball Club in East Anglia after her retirement. She calls it "dangerously addictive." 


"It absolutely hit the spot for me," she says. "As a former Pilates teacher, I saw the potential of pickleball for an aging population. There's a lot of squatting, lateral movement, and, of course, the psychological benefits of how sociable it is."


A significant catalyst for pickleball's growth in the UK has been the University of the 3rd Age (U3A) - a nationwide group of over 1,000 charities who create opportunities for older people to come together, share skills, and learn for fun. It's reported that over 80 U3A groups play pickleball.


Michael de Groot from Worcestershire discovered pickleball through U3A and is now a qualified coach. Michael believes the social benefits outweigh even the abundant physical and cognitive advantages that older people get from the sport.

Michael de Groot from Worcestershire, UK


He says, "The social interaction on and off court plays a major role in reducing loneliness in older adults and giving them a sense of belonging, and new friendships too. This should not be underestimated. You can see the evidence every week. Players arrive smiling and leave smiling."

Pickleball is more than just a sport, it is a lifeline, offering newfound joy and purpose. Through the stories of individuals like Kath Knowles, Sue Nicol, and Michael de Groot, we see how pickleball has transformed lives, providing an outlet for overcoming challenges and fostering meaningful connections.

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