By Liam Fox
The clicking of table tennis paddles making contact with their targets fills the room at the Ottawa Table Tennis Club, along with the light-hearted chatter of the players — all seniors — who are wielding them.
Serge Boudreau, a table tennis player in his 70s, explained how he got involved.
“I heard an ad on the radio and my eyes just lit up. I knew I had to come out and try it again,” Boudreau said. “It is like learning to re-walk. The challenge has been fun.”
Boudreau played table tennis regularly when the sport’s popularity boomed in North America in the 1970s and ’80s through the Ottawa District Table Tennis Association. Games were held in various public places, such as community centres, at that time.
But until joining the Centretown club in February, he had not played since 1988.
“Friendship comes first, competition is second,” Boudreau said.
The club, which opened at the beginning of the year on Louisa Street, is the city’s first full-time table tennis facility. And earlier this month, the club launched its new seniors program.
Inspired by a 2012 documentary about older table tennis players chasing championship dreams, the program shares the same name as the film: Never 2 Old 4 Gold.
The program is for club members over the age of 55 and includes coaching, practice time and competition.
Steve Lambruschini, co-owner of the Ottawa Table Tennis Club, said the sport is a fantastic way for those of all ages to stay active thanks to its low-impact andnon-contact nature.
“As you get older, you are not going to play football, soccer or even tennis. One by one, there are fewer sports that you will be able to do,” Lambruschini said.
Boudreau said he was active in cycling for the better part of the last 30 years before turning back to table tennis.
According to Lambruschini, the club has received funding from the Ontario Table Tennis Association to offer the program.
He said a seniors program had always been a part of the club’s plan, given the support from the OTTA and the opportunity to provide an athletic outlet to the aging Canadian population.
There are currently six players in the program who are in their 80s.
“This (community) has a lot of seniors, so I understand why it is a focus,” Boudreau said.
Robert Hutchings, 86, started playing table tennis in youth clubs in England when he was 12. Hutchings, who has Parkinson’s disease, said that table tennis is the best thing for him to stay active and is the main reason for him joining the Never 2 Old 4 Gold program.
“I just want to be involved and get to the point where you have to work hard to beat me,” Hutchings said with a laugh.
There are various health benefits from playing table tennis, according to Lambruschini, making it a sport that is inclusive of all ages. He said the benefits aren’t just physical.
“There are great cognitive properties as well, with more and more reports coming out of the mental (health) benefits of table tennis. It is really a thinking man’s game,” Lambruschini said.
The current Never 2 Old 4 Gold season began in mid-March and will continue until the beginning of May.
There will be three subsequent seniors-only seasons through the remainder of the year.