When Rachel Williams decided to learn how to play table tennis, the 89-year-old could barely hit a ball.
Three years later, the 89-year-old made headlines in local newspapers when she placed seventh in her age group at the National Senior Games in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Not bad for a pandemic hobby.
Williams started playing as a way to stay active after the fitness center at a senior living center in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, closed in 2020 due to coronavirus restrictions. She had heard that table tennis is a good way to keep the brain healthy.
Her act of genius — she bought a Zxmoto table tennis robot for $200 so she could practice table tennis at any level, even in isolation.
“It was expensive, but I thought it was worth it,” Williams told The Wall Street Journal.
Research shows that the brain works more actively when: play table tennis with robotsfollow body language, or give signals to abuse.
Williams’ mechanical sparring partner can surprise her with up to 36 different serves and has the ability to push her mentally with backspin and sidespin.
Not that she wasn’t up to the challenge. After watching her mother-in-law suffer from Alzheimer’s disease many years ago, the octogenarian had a keen interest in keeping her mind active by any means necessary.
After seeing the impact the disease had on her loved ones, she decided to join Johns Hopkins Alzheimer’s research in 2007.
There, she learned the role that keeping your body active can play in keeping your mind in better shape. Her first foray into table tennis was tap dancing. Williams said tap dancing requires similar skills for her.
Williams’ gold medal at last summer’s Senior Games — “I was thrilled to play so hard for so many hours with great players,” Williams said — was no coincidence.
It didn’t happen by chance.
To get there, she followed this routine. play 6 times a week — Sometimes with a partner, sometimes with a robot.
In addition to the actual sports, there is a whole list of other activities that help her maintain a healthy figure. She walks up to 45 minutes every day, works out on the rowing machine at the gym, lifts, squats, and her other favorite, tap dancing. , 5 mornings a week.
Ms. Williams sometimes performs in class.
“We perform a scene in which we pretend to be old men and hobble around on stage with canes, then break into a lively dance,” she joked.
And finally, of course, Williams follows a strict vegetarian diet, relying on eggs and grains like quinoa and kamut for protein, as well as plenty of vegetables.
“I’m very focused on what I put into my body,” she said. “When my friends push out candy or cookies, I tell them, ‘I don’t put sugar in the gas tank.'”