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5 Terrifying Life Lessons I Learned While Teaching Badminton To The Elderly

I recently started teaching a seniors-only badminton class at my local YMCA, and the experience has proven to be harrowing, to put it lightly. But at least I’ve come away with some life lessons—albeit terrifying ones. 

1. The human body can continue swinging a badminton racket for up to 10 minutes after death

A major problem with teaching badminton to the elderly is that elderly people often die. I learned this the hard way in just my second week of teaching, when a sweet 93-year-old named Irene had to forfeit a match halfway through due to her suddenly dying. It was a scary scene but also an educational one, as I learned that when someone’s heart stops mid-swing and they fall to the floor, their arm will continue windmilling around for a good 10 minutes or so. Should you ever find yourself in a similar situation, I’d highly recommend just standing back and waiting for the ambulance to come, as any attempts to intervene or perform CPR will only result in you getting whacked in the face with the deceased’s racquet.

2. Type 2 diabetes makes you way better at badminton

I have no idea why this is the case. But the fact is that four of the five best players in my class all have type 2 diabetes. We’re talking perfect serves, expert hand-eye coordination, swift lateral movement—definitely not the level of agility you’d expect from people born during the Hoover administration with dangerous glucose levels. It’s pretty cool, though! 

3. A regulation birdie has the same circumference as a standard tracheostomy hole

This isn’t the type of thing they’ll teach you in medical school, but it’s something you’ll inevitably learn after a few weeks of watching seniors play badminton. You’ll also learn after a good bit of trial and error that the most effective tool for excising a birdie from one’s neck hole is, somewhat surprisingly, a McFlurry spoon.

4. True evil exists in the world

There is something dark and depraved that churns within certain individuals and makes them delight in torturing animals. And while I hate to put ol’ Dolores on blast here, I’ve learned that this type of darkness can exist in anybody, even soft-spoken 85-year-old grandmothers, some of whom, it turns out, will find a stray cat in the YMCA parking lot after their senior badminton class and force-feed it all the change in their purse while muttering, “Hold still, you dumb CoinStar. Turn my coins into a Red Robin digital gift card.”

5. There is something about the smell of IcyHot that reminds elderly people of some wartime-era beverage, and they will immediately try to drink it if they manage to get their hands on some

I made the mistake of bringing IcyHot to class one day. Before I could realize what was happening, my students were squirting it into their mouths and calling it “Tinsel Milk.” Some of them even started singing a jingle that went, “Boys need Tinsel Milk / Girls need Tinsel Milk / Everybody drink Tinsel Milk / Or Randy’s gonna get ya!” Save yourself the call to poison control and just never bring IcyHot near anyone over 80. And maybe avoid teaching them badminton, too. It’s way more traumatic than you’d think.