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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

Granny’s Got Game

Granny's Got Game


Granny’s Got Game is a documentary film, directed by Angela Alford and released in 2013, featuring seven women in their seventies who are members of a North Carolina Senior basketball team called the Fabulous Seventies as they try to win a National Senior Games Championship. It follows them for the year leading up to this major championship and sees them through all of the ups and downs that they encounter as they seek to progress through the earlier stages of the competition. The film’s tagline, which is a quote from Benjamin Franklin, usefully sums up the philosophy of the film: “We don't stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing”.

The film

Granny’s Got Game is constructed around monologues from all of the team members alternating with footage of them practicing or competing on court in various state and regional competitions on the way to the national championship in Texas. Initially this involves them giving some background about their sporting achievements as young women at high school and goes on to talk about their physical health issues, the role of the team in their lives and their friendships that have developed over time. Some have developed significant physical health problems or have suffered injuries on court, but even then they show a determination to remain connected to the team by sitting on the bench during team practice or playing with protective padding. They have been playing together for seventeen years and so the women are able to offer a significant historical perspective on the role of the team and basketball in their lives as they are negotiating growing older. They share many interesting insights about how they cope with the experience of ageing.

Relevance to the field of Mental Health

Granny’s Got Game provides the viewer with a wonderful example of the benefits that regular physical exercise in later life can bring, especially when it involves social contact with team mates that encourages the development of mutually supportive relationships. Indeed the film examines the nature of friendships formed in later life and presents a clear argument in support of the mental health benefits of maintaining or creating a social network as we age. The style of the documentary helps the viewer to connect with each of the women very quickly and to appreciate their different personalities in relation to the task of growing older.

There is an increasing public health need for individuals at all ages and stages of life to take a greater responsibility for their physical and mental well being. Regular exercise is recognised as being central to achieving and maintaining good health and preventing the development of many diseases. Within the World Health Organisation Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health the recommendations for Physical Activity and Older Adults are worth quoting at length:

In order to improve cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, bone and functional health, reduce the risk of NCDs (Non-communicable diseases, which include a range of chronic conditions, such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and hypertension), depression and cognitive decline:

1         Older adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or do at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity.

        Aerobic activity should be performed in bouts of at least 10 minutes duration.

3         For additional health benefits, older adults should increase their moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity to 300 minutes per week, or engage in 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity per week, or an equivalent combination of moderate-and vigorous-intensity activity.

4         Older adults, with poor mobility, should perform physical activity to enhance balance and prevent falls on 3 or more days per week.

5         Muscle-strengthening activities, involving major muscle groups, should be done on 2 or more days a week.

6         When older adults cannot do the recommended amounts of physical activity due to health conditions, they should be as physically active as their abilities and conditions allow.

There is further useful information on the benefits of physical activity for older adults on the NHS choices website with some detailed guidelines about the 150 minutes a week recommended for better physical health. The webpage also includes an excellent short video about a playground designed for the over-60s somewhere in the UK in which users also link the social benefits of exercising with others outside of the home.

This is a wonderfully uplifting, at times moving, and compelling documentary film and I think anyone interested in working with older people would benefit hugely from watching it.


• More information about Granny’s Got Game can be found at IMDB and an extended trailer is available to view at Vimeo.

Granny’s Got Game can be purchased from itunes.

• Minds on Film is written by Consultant Psychiatrist, Dr Joyce Almeida


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About this blog


Minds on Film is a monthly blog that explores psychiatric conditions and mental health issues as portrayed in a selection of readily available films.

Please note that this blog may contain plot spoilers. Any views expressed are purely my own.

Dr Joyce Almeida
Dr Almeida is a consultant
psychiatrist working in the private sector in the UK.