VIDEO: Sporty pensioners are Young at Heart at the Holbrook Club

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Every Monday, older people with the enthusiasm of teenagers fly around table tennis areas, and serve and volley on tennis courts.

Dozens of pensioners attend the Young at Heart club at the Holbrook Club in Horsham - and though the club is for anybody over 50, many of the athletes are in their 70s and 80s.

JPCT 141013 S13410986x  Jean Stewart's 90th birthday party. Young At Heart. Holbrook Club, Horsham -photo by Steve Cobb

JPCT 141013 S13410986x Jean Stewart's 90th birthday party. Young At Heart. Holbrook Club, Horsham -photo by Steve Cobb

The group’s co-ordinator, Margery Hewitt, 83, estimates that 50 active over-50s turn up every week, and easily that number attend on the day that possibly the club’s oldest member celebrates her 90th birthday.

Jean Stewart has been a regular at the club throughout its 18-year history, and despite a bout with skin cancer which has involved her undergoing 17 operations, she is still a keen table tennis player.

She said: “I don’t feel any different. Sometimes I feel like I am 190 and another day I feel 19!

“I always thought I would still be playing (at 90). I come from a family that are very fit and my mother lived to 100.

“Ever since I can remember I have been playing sports, my brother was very sporty and whatever he did, I did - it was a bit of a sibling rivalry!”

Jean, who handed out maps to British squadrons on D-Day itself, shows no sign of slowing down around the table tennis table - Margery explained how ‘she is always the one bending down to pick up the ball’.

Jean added: “The club means a lot because I live alone - not that I’m lonely - but I meet up with so many people I have known for so long.

“I have been playing tennis and table tennis with the same group of people since about 1995, so 18 years.

“I really appreciate the friendship and support I have had from this club, because they visited me after my operations and if I don’t turn up I get phone calls to find out the reason.”

Young at Heart have found a home at the Holbrook Club, where they have met every Monday for the last 14 years.

As well as the more demanding sports of tennis, table tennis and badminton, the club also offers the likes of pilates, bowls and snooker.

It is not all about the sport, though, as the social side of the club gives its members plenty of time to catch up in between games.

Marion Fenton, 62, said the club offers older people an opportunity to pick up sports that they may not have played for years.

She said: “It helps people keep going and gives them something to get up for in the morning.

“It is a very friendly club and everybody mixes with everybody else - you don’t have to be brilliant at everything, some people come and slowly get back into sports they used to play.

“Where can you get a morning’s entertainment for £4?”

Suzanne Skillin, 66, said ‘the people make it special’.

She added: “If people are on their own it’s the friendship - rather than sitting at home, come and enjoy yourself, and if you don’t have to do exercise you don’t want to.

“We encourage people to join in as much as we can, it is amazing how quickly they improve.”

Encouragement isn’t necessary, though. Even the oldest sportspeople at the club bounce around with the youthful energy and enthusiasm that defines this unique local group.