The Age UK Walking Tennis programme aims to get older generations moving this summer, and hopefully having more fun too.

This year’s summer of sport is in full swing, and although a lot of the attention will no doubt be on Euro 2024 at the moment, there’s also plenty to get excited about in the world of tennis. The Roland Garros French Open only recently concluded, with Spanish hotshot Carlos Alcaraz adding another title to his blossoming career. Plus, who could forget that Wimbledon is just around the corner? I can practically taste the strawberries and cream already. Oh, and since it’s an Olympic year, there will be yet more high-level tennis competition over in Paris!

Naturally, competitions like those will draw in big crowds of all sorts of people, both in the stands and on the living room sofa. However, Age UK wants to show that older folk don’t merely have to sit on the sidelines. So, get your workout gear ready, here’s how to get involved:

What is the Age UK Walking Tennis programme?

If you live in the United Kingdom, you’ll probably have heard of Age UK before. It’s a charity with a big presence across the country, set up to provide support for elderly people, socially, physically, and financially. As part of that pledge, the decision-makers behind the operation have teamed up with the LTA Tennis Foundation to create the Age UK Walking Tennis scheme. The idea is to make the sport more accessible to older people, therefore creating an avenue for a more active lifestyle and greater social connections.

To make sure that the game is inclusive for everyone who might wish to take part (no matter their ability), LTA and Age UK have proposed a few modifications to the typical ruleset. For a start, as you might expect from walking tennis, no running or jumping is allowed. In turn, to make up for the slower pace of the game, the ball is allowed to hit the ground twice instead of once. Finally, attendees will also have the option to play on smaller courts so that they don’t have to travel quite as far to reach the ball, and ‘modified equipment’ will also be on offer.

To start with, eight Age UK locations will offer the walking tennis programme. These include: Age UK Shropshire Telford and Wrekin, Lincoln and South Lincolnshire, Devon, Sutton, Calderdale and Kirklees, Waltham Forest, Blackburn with Darwen, and South Kent Coast. Initially, the scheme will run for two years, but Age UK and LTA will assess the viability of extending the programme further into the future.

Why is it important to be active?

It’s no secret that, in general, people’s activity levels tend to reduce as they get older. According to Age UK, 51% of people aged 55 and over who have done no physical activity in the last 28 days, have also done nothing throughout the year. Furthermore, 70% of those aged 85 and over do no exercise at all. However, there are plenty of good reasons to try and remain active in the latter years of life.

For a start, there’s the social aspect. Isolation can be rife among the older demographic, so meeting up with peers for a few sets of walking tennis is a great way to improve someone’s mental health, if they often feel lonely. And then there are all the physical benefits that are worth considering. It is scientifically proven that increased activity levels in older people result in: lower overall death rates, reduced deaths from heart diseases, fewer cases of high blood pressure, decreased risk of certain cancers, reduced instances of type-2 diabetes, enhanced brain function, and improved sleep quality. And to be frank, that goes for all of us, no matter your age.

Upon the launch of the Age UK Walking Tennis programme, Paul Farmer, CEO at Age UK, said: “We’re delighted to have received funding from the LTA Tennis Foundation to set up Age UK’s new Walking Tennis programme. We know that keeping active can improve confidence and wellbeing, help older people to live independently for longer, and reduce isolation and loneliness. The Walking Tennis programme will be a great opportunity for older people to get active, try something new, socialise, and above all have fun!”

If this initiative appeals to you, or might be useful to someone you know, learn more about the Age UK Walking Tennis programme here.