Being an octogenarian doesn’t stop pickleball player
Getting Emily Hickerson to slow down would be a bit of a challenge. Though she won’t tell her exact age, she will admit to being in the late 80s.
You wouldn’t know it to meet her. She has the energy and attitude of someone much younger, and bubbles with enthusiasm for the things she loves.
“I like to do things. I like to stay busy,” the Schenectady resident said as she tied the laces on a new pair of sneakers.
And she does. She is an active member of her church and a regular at several senior centers. She sews and plays sports, and several times a week she plays bocce or pickleball at the Niskayuna Recreation Center on Aqueduct Road or at the Glenville Senior Center on Worden Road.
One of Hickerson’s most endearing qualities is her courage to try new things. “I’m the oldest one playing pickleball,” she said.
She picked up the game, which is similar to tennis and played with a whiffle ball, about three years ago.
“I play for the heck of it. I don’t play for blood,” she said. “I’m not going to give up. I don’t have to win to have fun.”
Hickerson was always an athlete. She grew up in Vermont, one of nine children. She described herself as a tomboy with good hand-eye coordination. In her high school class of 200 she was ranked second best athlete among the graduates and was known for playing both basketball and volleyball.
Today, she doesn’t let physical problems stop her. “I have arthritis, two degenerative knees, two degenerative ankles and spurs on each of my heels. But I just go, go, go. I keep active and it helps me feel better,” she said, adding that sometimes her aches and pains flare up but by moving she is able to walk off her discomfort. “I think being active helps me.”
Hickerson likes to explore new activities. Three years ago, she was playing volleyball and the late Karl Depold asked her to try pickleball. “I had never heard of it. But I tried it and it worked out. You’ve got to try new things to see if it agrees with you. If it does, stay with it,” she advised.
Pickleball is easy to play and beginners are often surprised by how well they do.
“If you played tennis, you will be good at pickleball. You’ll have the knack,” the enthusiastic Hickerson said.
Hickerson calls herself a novice player who likes to take it slow. While she works out often, she doesn’t push herself too far.
“Regular exercise is the secret” for long-term health, she said, adding that it’s also important for seniors to know when to sit on the sideline. “You don’t have to play every game.
“You can sit one out. Some older people are afraid to try a new sport. I think you have to try things to find out what you do like. Karl used to say I was not afraid to try new things. I would tell him, ‘How do you know [whether or not you like something] if you don’t try,’ ” she said.
“Whatever they have at the senior centers, I’ll try,” and you have to believe her. In the past 20 years, she has tried square dancing, line dance, golf and exercise programs on the Wii. Hickerson intends to keep it up with her activities. And, she is thinking of taking on a new game — shuffleboard.