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T3 Ping Pong

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A Day In The Life Of: A T3 Ping Pong Apprentice


“As the games went on their confidence grew and it was clear they were enjoying themselves, a flicker of personality would return to those suffering with the more severe stages of Alzheimer’s. I was stunned at first but looking back at our collection of photographs and video footage; I can say that the response was the same wherever we went.”

Our apprentice at T3 Ping Pong shares his views on our recent study. Click here to read more: A day in the life of a T3 apprentice



Study of the impact of T3 Ping Pong on the elderly

Back in 1998, Japanese studies showed the world how ping pong activated up to 5 portions of the brain in Alzheimer’s subjects during play. In light of this surprising and positive discovery, table tennis was designated the ‘World’s Number One Brain Sport’.


Today, 18 years on, T3 3-a-side ping pong experienced a similar revelation as it completed stage 1 of its study on; ‘The impact of T3 Ping Pong on Elderly UK Care Home Residents including  Alzheimer’s and Dementia sufferers.’

Touring a range of inner London care homes, to first test SEATED T3 ping pong where communal  space is limited, T3 discovered that it wasn’t just about the physical and mental health benefits of ping pong that were experienced, but with T3 came something extra; an overwhelmingly  positive emotional reaction to game. Time and time again the implementation team witnessed the fun and joy experienced by the participants.

The study showed just how good ping pong was at stimulating yet more parts of the brain!

At the end of each session 100% of residents fed back that they ‘enjoyed participating’, ‘would like to play again’ and ‘had fun!’ 75% described it as ‘sociable’ with 68% loving the fact that they could chat while playing.  And a further 45% saying specifically that ‘…It makes them laugh!’ Almost three quarters of them also agreed that it would be a great game to play with visiting family and friends.

It was definitely voted as a weekly activity option they would like to have with 20% even suggesting daily.

After an initially cautious response from a number of onsite physiotherapists, by the time they had witnessed the whole session, they all agreed that the social and physical benefits combined made it a winner. The only negative comment received from one was ‘…but who is going to pick up the balls?’ A volunteer quickly jumped in and said ‘I will – this is worth it!’

Seniors at a care home playing seated 3-a-side ping pong on a circular table.T3ONE70 was the right choice of table for the homes in terms of size, ease of set up, number of players round the table and storage. It fitted well in all venues.The circular shape meant it could also be used in smaller rooms where for example, traditional rectangular tables would struggle to be accommodated. The physical testing of the ‘seated’ aspect of the game, using standard static care home lounge chairs and wheelchairs worked well with no issues for the players or Activities Coordinators.

Some of the care homes did discuss taking the table outside in summer or using the T30 full size tournament table, but there was quite a lot of compelling evidence to suggest that the participants were much more comfortable playing inside with consistent lighting1, no breeze or temperature fluctuations2 , sound control3  and a familiar, consistent and flat surface underfoot.

The best colour combination for play was by far ‘an orange ball on the matte black surface’. The hard net was also enjoyed and useful as participants, especially those not playing a game, could track the ball for longer and give them multiple chances to reconnect with the ball. The activity wasn’t over in one shot nor were they reliant on an opponent to return the ball. Better players tended to hit harder and enjoy the centre position often refusing to rotate or leave the table.

Interestingly the 3-a-side aspect of T3 often didn’t concern the participants who were more interested in how many players they could get around the table.  The average number of players at each session was 8 (this usually included 2 wheelchair participants – one per side), 4-a-side worked well as players tended not to ‘poach’ or reach too far across for the ball due to physical or sight impairments).

The research teams noted that at the end of each session approximately a third of participants had slight but visible, perspiration on their faces. However when asked if the room was too warm or stuffy at the time, players were all very firm in answering ‘no’ and any breeze was found to be uncomfortable or even irritating2. This was in fact the only negative encountered.

Each care home had an average of 20% negative participants who said they did not want to join in but by the end of the session they were laughing with everyone else and didn’t want the session to end. It was also heartening to receive personal ‘thank yous’ and ‘requests to return next week!’ from these players especially.

Some of the better players tried out the smaller T3 Supermini bats (see pg.7), expectation was that it would reduce strike rate – it did not! Some even played better as they found it easier to hold the smaller bat due to weak/arthritic hands and wrists.

They all very much enjoyed holding their own ball, as well as serving. Lots of free play took place using multiple balls to warm up.  Structured sessions were more effective where play levels were similar.

Those with more extreme physical disabilities, through mental health issues, dementia or more advance Alzheimer’s, responded very well to one on one coaching and with only one ball in play at a time. The rest of the players surprisingly, responded better with multiple balls on the table, they found it more fun! And felt it gave them more chances to hit.

At each venue there were approximately the same number of observers in attendance who watched the games and were also keen ‘to give it a go’ at the end of the session. The ETTA (English Table Tennis Association) attended one of the sessions and commented that as …residents were able to play from their seats, it meant that they were able to rest and compete for a longer period.’

 ‘Everyone without exception enjoyed the event. I’ve never seen them so engaged with each other too – there’s a lot of banter, and noise! ’ Robyn Deutsch – Activities Coordinator

‘It’s a miracle game for the elderly!’ said daughter of 97 year old mother with Alzheimer’s  ‘I’ve never seen my mother so engaged since she came here 2 years ago… excuse me, watching her is making me cry, I’m so happy for her.’

 T3 Ping Pong comes to care homes!

Table-tennis-englandT3 proved that Ping Pong is a sport for all ages by running a fantastic and very popular three a side competition at Hammerson House Care Home! The session was provided by T3’s coaches to a number of residents, who quickly adapted to the challenges of three a side on a circular table.

Hammerson House caters to residents over the age of 90, and the social benefit of playing table tennis was clearly evident as players thoroughly enjoyed competing with one another and engendering rivalry across the table. The circular table allowed at least six players to take part at the same time and residents were also able to play from their seats, which meant that they were able to rest and compete for a longer period. T3 also provides a larger table which would have allowed up to 12 residents to take part in the activity.

The table was fantastically well received by the care home and they are already looking forward to the next opportunity to play!

Posted May 12, 2016 by Table Tennis England

T3 and Dementia

“You’re never too old for gold.” This is the mantra of the surprisingly spritely competitors in the over-80s World Table Tennis Championships who are living proof of the benefits of leading an active lifestyle well into retirement.

And it’s not just physical wellbeing they enjoy. Did you know that there is mounting evidence to show that playing ping pong can tackle the onset of dementia and control the progress of it for those who are already suffering? T3 Ping Pong offers all these benefits as well as being even more sociable than traditional table tennis.

Research indicates that any exercise that gets your circulation going can help to slow cognitive decline as well as reducing the risk of dementia. Exercise boosts the size of the hippocampus through increased cerebral blood flow; the hippocampus is the part of our brain which is central to our ability to form new memories and crucially, it is this which is seen to shrink in individuals with Alzheimer’s, as shown in the images below. And ping pong, it seems, is one of the best activities to choose from, in the fight against dementia. So much so, that in the US, table tennis is used as therapy for patients living with dementia and Alzheimer’s.


Aside from the great overall workout it gives your body, ping pong requires the brain to be constantly engaged. It’s not simply a matter of hitting a ball to and fro; the player must also keep an eye on the ball as well as on their opponent’s movements which demands good hand-eye co-ordination and decent spatial awareness. And this is not just theoretical; studies have shown that table tennis activates various parts of the brain simultaneously. The player is required to be both mentally and physically alert at the same time.

In the USA, the non-profit Sport and Art Educational Foundation (SAEF) runs a ping pong therapy programme in Los Angeles for Alzheimer’s patients. Elderly locals play once or twice a week and the focus is on a low-impact game that stimulates concentration and improves motor function while also lifting the player’s mood. SAEF started the programme in response to a large clinical study(1) in Japan dating back to 1997. Their sample of 3,000 elderly players was shown to have increased frontal lobe function after just two minutes of play. They also witnessed physical, mental and emotional improvements such as patients no longer needing wheelchairs or assistance to walk; number of patients with acute depression falling; and some had their dementia rating downgraded by the end of the study.

Meanwhile, in the UK, care homes for the elderly are also realising the potential benefits for their residents. Iain Batchelor, a trainer at Abbeyfield Girton Green said, “Our ping pong club has become a regular weekly activity and we have made sure that the tables are accessible at all times for residents and their families by placing them in our communal area. By having these facilities on site, it allows the residents to meet and socialise with each other whilst keeping active and healthy at the same time. Many residents have seen improvements with regards to balance, improved leg strength and hand to eye co-ordination skills.”

pic 2

T3 Ping Pong takes these benefits to a whole new level with six players around the table at the same time, meaning you have to keep your eye on three opponents, not just one. The game is played on a circular table with specially constructed nets adding yet another dimension to the game.

T3 Ping Pong has many over-80s fans who not only enjoy playing ping pong, but relish the social element as well. Andre Leung, 83, hosts a regular match with a group of friends. “It started out as a novelty, but now we wouldn’t miss our Monday matches. I come away from the table feeling really alive and motivated. I’m sure that’s to do with how much I have to concentrate while I’m playing as well as the good old gossip in between the rallies!”


(1) ‘The Effectiveness of Exercise Intervention on Brain Disease Patients: Utilizing Table Tennis as a Rehabilitation Program’ conducted by Dr. Teruaki Mori and Dr. Tomohiko Sato.

Image courtesy of the National Institute on Aging/National Institutes of Health and Image courtesy of SAEF


tabletenniskenrecent_k_MEDWhy ping pong just might be the elixir of youth

Table tennis, ping pong, wiff-waff: call it what you will, it’s increasingly popular in the UK, with 2.4 million players. Now there are suggestions it could even help with conditions like dementia.

First, he took on my dad, writes Channel 4 News Online Producer Jennifer Rigby.

“Let’s put money on it,” he said. My dad was a little reluctant. While his opponent, Ken Leighton, seemed pretty confident in his own table tennis abilities, dad was a bit less convinced – not least because Ken is 85 years old.
This turned out to be a fairly serious under-estimation of Ken’s ping pong skills. Ken thrashed him. Then, a few months later, I played Ken. He thrashed me too. I reminded him of these games recently.

Let’s put money on it. The challenge from 85-year-old table tennis player, Ken Leighton, to his much younger opponent.

“I think your dad thought he wasn’t going to get a game… He went home with his tail between his legs,” said Ken, laughing. “It’s happened before.” Ken started playing table tennis when he was in the army, in 1945. That was 68 years ago.

“I had a decent bat which I still use today,” he said. “It’s got a mark on the back where my fingers have been – it’s taken the rubber off.”

Ping pong for all ages

Ken, who lives in Lancashire, is one of a host of older people who are finding that table tennis is a game for all ages. Last year, a documentary made by Britdoc/Banyak Films called Ping Pong followed eight players on their way to the over-80s world table tennis championships in China.

The 3,500 competitors may be elderly, but they are fierce on the table – and off it.

“This old girl, I don’t care how good she is. I should get her. She can’t move,” says one of the female players, talking about the oldest player in the 2010 tournament: 101-year-old Dorothy DeLow, from Australia.

I was playing table tennis, and I think that saved me. 101-year-old Dorothy DeLow, a competitor in the over-80s table tennis world championships
But the film has a serious side to it as well. Dorothy tells the filmmakers: “I lost my husband and my daughter and I was playing table tennis, and I think that saved me.”
Another competitor, Inge Herman, who is 90 in the film, stopped eating and drinking when her husband died 15 years ago, and became “confused”. Then she discovered table tennis – and is shown in the film smashing her opponents, clearly together, and seemingly not at all “confused”.

Health benefits

Ken would agree that table tennis has helped keep him fit. He recently had to have an operation, which doctors said they would not have undertaken on a man of his age if he wasn’t so healthy.

“Without a shadow of a doubt [it has helped me]. The doctor said if I hadn’t been fit, they wouldn’t have done the operation. And it’s absolutely helped me mentally as well. I think it’s great,” he said.

Now scientists who have seen the Ping Pong film want to test whether there is any scientific basis behind the improvements some of the characters showed after playing table tennis. At the same time, the filmmakers are taking the film and “ping pong kits” to care homes and community centres around the country to try and encourage older people to play – both for the physical and mental benefits.

Obviously, keeping fit is as good for older people as it is for anyone. But in particular, scientists have shown that exercise is very good at preventing dementia and helping with the symptoms of the disease. But is table tennis any better at this than other sports? Dr Matthew Kempton from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London wants to find out.

“You see this film, and you’re quite inspired by some of the characters there and some of the changes in their symptoms and the improvement, and what we really want to do now is the science. In the film, it’s more anecdotal evidence, what we want to do now is test the science,” he told Channel 4 News.

The power of ping pong

He said table tennis has the potential to be helpful for older people with dementia in particular because it combines physical activity with spatial skills, cognition and keeping social.

“Previous research has shown that exercise has actually increased the volume of an area in the brain called the hippocampus,” he explained.

“This area is very important in dementia, especially in Alzheimer’s disease. It is important in the formation of new memories, and this area gets smaller in people with Alzheimer’s. So what we’d be interested in looking at is, while people are playing these table tennis games, or are engaged in more activity, does this area of the brain actually increase in volume? Is there more blood flow and so on, in the hippocampus?”

‘Because of your age, they think you’re a pushover. They said: ‘You’ll be our secret weapon.’ Ken Leighton

The team are trying to get funding now to do the work, but in the meantime experts say that it’s part of a wider attempt to encourage older people to keep active, particularly to prevent or help with conditions like Alzheimer’s.

George McNamara from the Alzheimer’s Society told Channel 4 News: “Every person with dementia is different, and what might be of interest to one person might be table tennis, it might be swimming, it might be talking about the past sporting glories of their football club. But one of the things we do know is that people can live well with dementia.”

And Ken? He’s not playing right now because of his illness, but he hopes to be back. Just before he got ill, a local team asked him to play for them.

“Because of your age, they think you’re a pushover. They said ‘you’ll be our secret weapon,'” he said.

But while Ken is still hoping to keep his talents under wraps, it’s another story for the table tennis campaigners.

If their message gets across in the care homes around the country, they hope potential health benefits of table tennis for older people will not be kept secret for long.

Copy and images taken from Channel


600x338-536SAEF Table Tennis Therapy Program

SAEF Table Tennis Therapy Program is an innovative tool designed to benefit early stage Alzheimer’s individuals through carefully supervised instructions in “table tennis therapy.”

Our work at SAEF is based on a Japanese clinical study, “The Effectiveness of Exercise Intervention on Brain Disease Patients: Utilizing Table Tennis as a Rehabilitation Program” conducted by Dr. Teruaki Mori and Dr. Tomohiko Sato that has demonstrated “table tennis” uniquely activates as many as five separate portions of the brain simultaneously – thus producing an increased awareness and improved state of cognition in the participants. Even Oprah’s favorite physician, Dr. Mehmet Oz, dedicated a prime segment of his television show on the benefits of ping-pong, describing it as his favorite ‘brain sport.’ This segment can be viewed at:
SAEF has the unique distinction of being the only organization in the United States currently utilizing “table tennis” as a beneficial therapy program for patients with early stage Alzheimer’s and various forms of dementia. Please visit the Jewish Journal for a detailed article about the SAEF Table Tennis Therapy Program.

The SAEF’s Alzheimer’s Table Tennis Therapy Program has been met with great success through amazing results and community support. Alzheimer’s Association of America’s early stage clinical manager, Nicole Feingold states, “The SAEF Alzheimer’s Program is both innovative and exciting. I am thrilled to be able to offer another activity option for my early stage clients.” Leeza Gibbon’s Foundation’s advocate Yael Wytze adds, “SAEF’s program gives me hope for new approaches to combating the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease. It serves as a wonderful tool and outlet for the individuals with early stage memory loss and their loved ones.”

Based on research, personal testimonials and observation there is a body of evidence suggesting that the game of table tennis provides multiple benefits by engaging patients in a form of physical and mental stimulation that is therapeutic and enjoyed immensely by participants.

We are currently seeking support to continue our program. Our ultimate goal is to provide this extraordinary therapeutic experience to many more who have lost so much through this tragic and mysterious disease – and offer them a sense of hope for a future they may still own.

Copy taken from