Because pickleball is relatively new compared to some other sports, people have a lot of questions about it.
One question we’ve been asked a few times is ‘why do older people love pickleball so much?’
Now, to be clear, pickleball is definitely not just a sport for older people.
You only have to look at professional pickleball tournaments to see that there are plenty of younger athletes in the sport.
However, it’s true that many older people gravitate towards pickleball.
There are many reasons why pickleball might appeal to older people more than other physical activities.
Today, we’re going to break down why older people love pickleball so much.
Reasons Pickleball Is Perfect For Seniors
1. It’s A Racket Sport
Pickleball is a cross between tennis, ping-pong, and badminton.
This means that it’s a racket sport, and racket sports tend to be more popular with older people compared to other kinds of sports.
The reason racket sports like pickleball are so popular with seniors is that these sports are low-impact, meaning they don’t put as much stress on your bones and joints compared to other activities.
For example, if you do a sport that involves a lot of running at an older age, such as soccer or even just jogging, you’re going to be putting a lot of stress on your knees.
This isn’t an issue with pickleball because racket sports in general don’t require as much running (when they do, it’s in the form of short sprints), and pickleball courts are even smaller than tennis courts, so the high-impact movement is significantly less.
With age, our bones tend to get more brittle and our joints can’t tolerate as much impact and stress.
Pickleball is a low-impact way to keep enjoying movement at an older age.
2. Social Benefits
Unlike some other racket sports where singles are more commonly played than doubles, pickleball is more frequently played as a doubles game.
This means that it’s a particularly social sport.
Of course, there are plenty of other team sports out there, but many of these involve running around a large pitch, which not only isn’t ideal for a lot of seniors, but it also doesn’t provide much opportunity for connection and communication.
Playing doubles, or even singles games of pickleball gives older people the chance to make friends and socialize on a regular basis, which can be difficult when you no longer go to work or take your kids to school.
Socialization, research has found, is even more important for seniors than middle-aged adults.
Studies have shown that isolation can increase older people’s risk of depression and dementia, and has even been linked to premature deaths, so pickleball can be really beneficial for seniors in this regard.
3. Mental Health Benefits
Admittedly, this point could be said of most sports, but since most sports may not be suitable for the majority of seniors for the reasons outlined in our first point, we have to touch on this as one of the main reasons older people love pickleball.
Although pickleball is fairly low-intensity and low-impact, it still gets your heart pumping.
Sports that get your heart rate up release endorphins and neurochemicals that can boost your mood and improve your mental health overall.
For example, L-tryptophan, which is an amino acid known for its mood-boosting properties, is released with physical activity.
The presence of this amino acid leads to the release of serotonin, which helps to regulate your moods and minimizes the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
4. It’s Strategic
Pickleball is fundamentally a strategic game.
You can play it without paying much attention to strategy, but you’ll be much less likely to win, and the game will probably be less entertaining.
In short, playing pickleball engages the brain and keeps cognitive skills sharp, as well as promoting spatial awareness, faster processing speed, cognitive flexibility, and even better memory.
In addition to the brain-sharpening strategy involved in pickleball, participating in physical activity increases blood flow around the brain.
Increased circulation to the brain also means more glucose, oxygen, and other nutrients going to this organ, and this has been associated with better functioning in the prefrontal cortex.
As a result, impulse control and attention spans tend to be improved.
5. The Rules Are Simple
Although pickleball is a strategic game, the rules are not complicated.
Older people may be less likely to want to pick up a sport later in life if the rules are confusing and require a lot of time to get a full understanding.
Because the rules of pickleball are fairly straightforward, seniors can jump straight into the game after mastering a few simple instructions, and start deriving all of the above benefits right away.
The simple rules of pickleball mean that it’s also a suitable sport for older people who may have started experiencing a decline in their cognitive abilities.
A lot of people mistakenly assume that once their brains start working differently with age, they can’t participate in the kinds of activities they used to enjoy, including sport.
However, pickleball is a perfect example of a sport that is suitable for seniors.
Pickleball is one of the best sports for older people because it’s a racket sport that is low-impact, even compared to other racket sports like tennis.
The game also has simple rules, while being strategic enough to encourage mental sharpness and cognitive function.
Playing pickleball releases neurochemicals that combat anxiety and depression, and it’s also a good opportunity to socialize, which is really important for seniors who may not have as many reasons to go out and connect with others.
Although pickleball is definitely not just for seniors, there’s no question that older people love pickleball!
Frequently Asked Questions
Almost no sport is completely gentle on your joints all the time, but pickleball is much easier on the joints than most sports, which is why seniors tend to gravitate towards it.
Because you only need to run in short bursts around a relatively small court, you don’t put a lot of stress on your knees.
However, repetitive motion of the wrist and elbow from hitting the ball can lead to discomfort and pain in some cases.
Although a lot of older adults love pickleball, the average age of pickleball players is actually in the region of 18 to 34, proving that pickleball is definitely not a sport that’s just for seniors.
Pickleball does require a level of fitness because you need to move quickly in short bursts.
You’ll also need some stamina to keep doing this throughout the game. However, the fitness level needed for pickleball is not as intense as other sports.
Learning how to use more technique and relying less on pure strength during pickleball matches will decrease how much energy you need to put into the game as well, and it’s perfectly fine to play at a lower intensity outside of tournament or competition situations.
Your personal goals when it comes to pickleball will play a role in how intensely you play and how fit you need to be to enjoy the game.
I am Michael Wanner, an experienced and educated expert in the field of pickleball. I hold a degree in Sports Science from Cleveland State University, Ohio, USA. My expertise lies in the technical aspects of pickleball and how to play it effectively. I have spent many years playing and coaching pickleball and have a wealth of knowledge to share with my readers. I am a valuable resource for anyone looking to improve their pickleball skills and strategies.