Chelsea Pensioners inspiring us to stay active this January

25th January 2024

There are many benefits to leading an active lifestyle. From preventing illness and injury to boosting one's mental wellbeing. 

At the Royal Hospital Chelsea, we champion active ageing. We believe it is important to encourage participation in activities to support happy and healthy lifestyles later in life. 

To support our ethos, we have an extensive activities programme on offer. From pottery to singing, Bowls Club to Walking Rugby - our activities support both physical and mental wellbeing. Plus, they provide plenty of opportunity for social interaction. 

We caught up with some of the Chelsea Pensioners to find out more about what activities they are involved in and how this benefits their health and wellbeing. 

Importance of Social Sports

Two Chelsea Pensioners in blue uniform stood next to each other smiling in front of tree
For Chairman of the Bowls Club Ron, the first question he asked when joining the Royal Hospital was if there was a Bowls Club. Within a week of joining, he was part of the Club and taking part in playing. Ron spoke to us about why he enjoys being part of the team.

I’m 90 this year so I’m slowing down a bit, but Bowls is something you can still do in your senior years. It might look straight-forward but it can be quite technical; just altering the mat can change the game. It’s something to look forward to each week and the social life is very important too; you get to meet so many different people through it. 

I’ve progressed from Vice Captain to Captain and now Chairman. This will be my 10th season playing Bowls at the Royal Hospital this year. It was something I used to play with my wife as it was something we could both participate in; I’ve always loved the sport!

 Mike, member and Grounds Liaison Officer of the Bowls Club also shared how the Bowls Club has benefitted him:

I’ve always been involved in sport. I used to be a cricket umpire for 20 years or so. Bowls is something I love doing; it’s a fantastic sport. It’s very sociable. Especially, the away games, you get to meet lots of different people. 

I’ve got arthritis in my hands so I can’t hold the ball. I use a device that is accepted by the Bowls Clubs and governing body of the Bowls Association. It means I can continue Bowls whereas before I nearly had to give it up. But it’s something to do; you can be very involved which is what I try to do.”

Exercises for Balance and Mobility

Two Chelsea Pensioners doing tai chi, balancing with one leg on a chair
In addition to team sports, classes led by our expert Physiotherapy team are also on offer at the Royal Hospital. These include Tai Chi and Ballet. The gentle movements support mobility, prevent falls and help maintain activity levels. The relaxing environment and incorporation of meditation also provides positive mental benefits. 

For Mike, he says that Tai Chi is a great exercise for balance.

The tai chi benefits me tremendously. I’ve had both knees replaced so this really helps me improve my balance and keep me mobile. It also puts you in a different state of mind; I feel relaxed afterwards.

Roger says it has also helped him with his flexibility. He used to do yoga and thought he would try out tai chi and ballet. He is a regular attendee in both activities and a frequent gym goer. By attending these sessions, Roger said he has been able to maintain his flexibility and he can still touch his toes!

Supporting Mental Wellbeing

Whilst it is important to keep active to maintain strength and mobility, taking part in activities can also support one's mental wellbeing. Some of the tai chi attendees expressed the benefits of the activity for boosting their mood. Helen tries to attend as much as she can and has also picked up some new skills since joining the Hospital. 

I come to the class as often as I can. It's great for keeping me mobile and it helps you relax. I also attend the art class here, I'm not an artist but I've enjoyed learning new things and being creative. 

Chelsea Pensioner in scarlet uniform stood behind flowers
For Monica, she enjoys walking to keep active. Walking has many benefits which includes strengthening bones, keeping the heart strong as well as improving mood. Our grounds offer a peaceful space for Chelsea Pensioners to enjoy a walk in nature. This is one of Monica's favourite things to do...

I love going for walks. My goal is to walk 2.5 miles a day. Even just round the gardens here. It’s a peaceful oasis! I take my binoculars to spot some wildlife. It’s very relaxing and fantastic for keeping me active.


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