News and events

Making friends, keeping fit

The benefits of exercise for general health are well-known but research has shown that for older people, taking regular gentle exercise can reduce the risk of falls and injuries by up to 50%.

Here we take a look at two ways older people in Hampshire are doing just that and having fun at the same time.

Staying steady and strong

Jackie and Shirley at a Steady and Strong class

Pat had been looking for a gentle exercise class that she could join but hadn’t found one, and then she read our article Fitness and Friends in the spring edition of Hampshire Now. Thanks to that, she has joined the weekly Steady and Strong exercise classes at the Phoenix Centre, Pilgrims Way, Andover, jointly commissioned by the County Council and the NHS.

“I am quite active,” said Pat aged 67. “But going to a gym is a bit too much for me. I wanted something gentle, something more suitable for me. They are such a friendly group. It’s great.”

Adrianne who leads the classes puts everyone through their paces with a combination of seated and standing exercises aimed at increasing mobility, strength and balance. The class lasts around an hour and there is a nice supportive feel with lots of friendly banter. Afterwards they all enjoy a welcome cuppa and chat.

Jacqui, 55 and Shirley, 67, (above) have both been attending the classes for the past three years, as has Jean who is 80. “I like the companionship,” she said. “Oh, and the exercise of course,” she adds with a twinkle.

Wendy, 58, had a stroke three years ago which has left her with no movement in her left arm and limited movement in her left leg. Coming to the class has been a huge benefit: “It has really strengthened my leg and given me tremendous balance. It has also boosted my confidence. It’s done me the world of good. It’s good for anybody whose balance may not be as good as it used to be.”

This is echoed by Gordon, 77, one of seven men who regularly attend the class. “It’s kept me mobile which means my children don’t worry about me and I can stay in my own home which is what you want, isn’t it.”

To find your local class, visit or call 01962 846605

Anyone for tennis – table tennis that is!

There is one sound you don’t expect to hear when you step into a church – the distinctive sound of a table tennis ball as it pings back and forth across the table. That is the sound which greets you if you step inside St Luke’s Church in Hedge End on Thursday afternoons.

Dick Fearne, 78, started the weekly sessions after attending a screening of the inspirational film Ping Pong: Never too old for Gold, at the County Council’s Ashburton Hall.

Dick loves the sport but he didn’t start the club just because of that. “I love any sport but at my age this is perfect,” said Dick. “You can do it come rain or shine. I like to get others involved, to get the exercise sure, but also for the fun of it. It’s suitable for all ages and abilities and we enjoy the social aspect of it.”

83 year-old John Whiteman, agrees. He said: “I enjoy coming along. You get to know people and you can have a laugh. It’s helped me with my fitness with all the bending and keeping my eye on the ball. It certainly keeps me active. Dick is my mentor. He keeps me on my toes. It’s good fun but I’ve not managed to beat him yet!” he laughs.

To find out more about Ping Pong events, including the annual event on 4 October, visit