Q: My friend recently invited me to play Pickleball with her. I had never heard of the sport. What is it, and do many seniors play?

Answer: Pickleball is a paddle sport created for all ages and skill levels. This team sport can be played indoors or outdoors and takes place on a badminton court using a perforated plastic baseball (similar to a wiffle ball) and small paddles. The pickleball net is lowered to 34 inches for game play, and each game is played to a score of 11 points. Similar to volleyball and tennis, a point can be scored only by the serving team. Created in 1965 by a group of friends who were initially looking to play a game of badminton but found themselves without a complete set of racquets, the group “pickled together” several items from different sports to create a game that everyone could play. In the very first pickleball game, they used a wiffle ball, ping pong paddles and badminton net. Since that time, the game has changed somewhat. The paddle has gotten a little larger, and there is a standard set of rules, but the core idea — that all members of a family or friend group could come together and play it — has remained a staple.

Today, it can best be described as a blend of tennis, badminton, ping-pong and squash.

Pickleball is quickly becoming one of the most popular group sports. In fact, in 2015 the Sports and Fitness Industry Association called it the fastest-growing sport in the United States. Coupling physical exercise with the emotional and social connection provided by team sports is a winning combination for many people.

Older adults especially seem to take to the game. It is likely that this is because it is easy for beginners to learn, doesn’t put a great deal of stress on the joints or body, has rules of play that are simple and offers a lot of social activity and interaction. To learn more about the sport of pickleball, visit the United States Pickleball Association at usapa.org.

In Forsyth County, the Jerry Long YMCA, located at 1150 S. Peace Haven Road in Clemmons, offers opportunities to play pickleball each weekday. Typically, the court is available Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m.–noon. They advise you to call first, as availability is subject to change. Pickleball is also offered at the Stokes, Wilkes and Yadkin family YMCAs in surrounding counties. For more information about pickleball in our area, visit ymcanwnc.org.

Q: I often see the terms hospice and palliative care together? What is the difference between the two?

Answer: Both hospice care and palliative care are designed to provide comfort and relief to people and their families during a serious illness. Both services are often offered by the same organization, so it is not unusual to see the terms together. Additionally, palliative care can be a standalone service or offered as part of hospice care, which may lead to people using the terms interchangeably.

The goal of palliative care is to help people facing serious illness feel better and have less pain — in other words, to improve their quality of life across the board. This type of care focuses on treating the side effects associated with the treatment of a disease, as well as the symptoms of the disease itself. Palliative care does not replace other treatments but serves as an additional support. The care extends to address the emotional, social, practical and spiritual elements that also impact a person’s ability to fight and recover from a serious illness. It can include a variety of treatments, such as counseling, support groups, family meetings, occupational and physical therapy, nutritional guidance and medical interventions.

Palliative care may be offered to people with a wide range of serious illnesses, such as cancer, heart disease, lung disease, dementia and kidney failure. Many health-care professionals can play a part in providing palliative care, but there are some who specialize in the service. Your physician is best equipped to connect you to palliative care specialists and resources best able to suit your needs.

Hospice care is typically extended to people who have learned from their physician that they are not expected to recover from their condition. Hospice care also focuses on easing pain and improving quality of life, with the additional element of helping families prepare for the end of life of a loved one. Under the direction of a primary physician, the hospice care team — which can include nurses, CNAs, social workers, clergy and volunteers — work with people to develop a comprehensive plan for offering emotional support and comfort to patients and their families. Care can be given in a variety of settings, including in the home or on site at a hospice home.

One of the main differences between palliative care as a standalone service and hospice care relates to when the service is able to be accessed. Palliative care can begin upon the initial diagnosis of a disease and continue throughout a patient’s course of treatment. Hospice care is offered after treatment of a disease has stopped. As with palliative care, your physician is a great resource for helping you connect with a hospice provider that can help meet your needs.

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AgeWise is a weekly column compiled by staff of Senior Services Inc., a nonprofit organization in Winston-Salem. If you have a question, email ewise@seniorservicesinc.org or mail to Senior Services, 2895 Shorefair Drive, Winston-Salem, NC 27105.

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