Fitness sessions for pensioners are a smash hit

Hillsborough Leisure over 60's . Hillsborough Leisure over 60's Edwin Grocock

Hillsborough Leisure over 60's . Hillsborough Leisure over 60's Edwin Grocock

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AUDREY Fletcher whipped her badminton racket above her head, smashing the shuttlecock over the net and down onto the hard court.

“That’s 15-6 and the match,” she said.

Hillsborough Leisure over 60's . Hillsborough Leisure over 60's  Jean Clayton.Audrey Fletcher and her sister Lillian Clay in an aerobics session.

Hillsborough Leisure over 60's . Hillsborough Leisure over 60's Jean Clayton.Audrey Fletcher and her sister Lillian Clay in an aerobics session.

Audrey is 82 years old. Her opponent, Jean Clayton, is 78.

The pair are two of the younger members of a group which gathers to play badminton and do aerobics at Hillsborough Leisure Centre every Wednesday.

Audrey’s sister Lilian Clay - another regular member - is 92 and most of the other fitness fanatics are in their late 80s.

“I don’t like anything slow - I like things to be fast,” said Audrey, of Kinnaird Place, Shiregreen, leaving the rest of the group behind as she marched off the badminton court, towards the aerobics studio.

“Some people think you are old when you are 60.

“But if you get off your backside, just get out and do it, you can do anything, at any age.”

Medical advances and better lifestyles mean Sheffield’s population is older than ever before.

People are living longer and longer and a bigger proportion of the city’s population is retired.

With more free time on their hands, and in better health than ever, Sheffield’s pensioners are looking to make the most of their retirement.

Retired steelworker Edwin Grocock, 86, from Barlow Road, Stannington, is a true fitness enthusiast.

The father of four and grandfather of two is 21 years into his retirement, and he uses every minute.

“I’ve always been active, all my life, he said.

“My father was a great believer in keeping fit - he instilled it in us at a very early age.”

Edwin was introduced to Hillsborough Leisure Centre’s Smart Beat sessions - which offer cheap activities during the day - by his sisters Audrey and Lilian.

“This is a great place to come,” he said.

“There are a group of us who have been coming here for a while, and we all get on very well.

“The staff help no end - it really is very good.”

Edwin, a veteran race walker who still trains three times a week for competitions, said: “When I see other people who are far younger than me struggling, it worries me.

“I don’t want to get stale.

“Provided you don’t have heart problems or anything like that, I think anyone can do this.

“It does need commitment though, because it takes a few months before you see the difference.”

His elder sister Lilian, 92, from Phillips Road, Loxley, said: “I brought up three children, but always found time to keep fit.

“Even before they built all these new leisure centres, I would go to keep-fit classes wherever I could find them, in school halls or in churches.

“My neighbours are 20 years younger than me, and they can’t do half the things I can. It’s because I’ve kept fit all my life.”

Hillsborough Leisure Centre programme development manager Natalie Briggs said: “This group of people is amazing.

“They are up for anything, they will do any class, try any sport. We’ve even had them trampolining.

“And they want more people to come along - they need the numbers for their badminton games.”

Jean Clayton, aged 78, from Stannington, was one of the first members of the group when it formed more than 20 years ago.

“I do aqua-aerobics on a Monday and on a Wednesday I play badminton and do gentle aerobics. I really enjoy it. It keeps me fit and keeps me flexible.’’

Despite their enthusiasm, the group have learned not to push things too far.

Rita Fletcher, 80, from Wharncliffe Side, was playing badminton one day when she started feeling ill.

She was taken to the Northern General Hospital, where doctors told her she had suffered a heart attack.

But six weeks later, after a short spell of rehabilitation, she was back at the leisure centre playing badminton again.

The retired school administrator said: “People who don’t do anything are making a mistake. They are making it much harder for themselves to keep healthy.

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