A CAMPAIGN has been launched to get more elderly people playing table tennis as a way of socialising in the cold winter months.

Oxfordshire Community Foundation’s Surviving Winter Campaign’s “Get Batty!” appeal was launched at the group’s headquarters in Woodins Way, Oxford.

Television celebrities Mark Jenkins, star of Channel 4’s The Hotel, and author and health guru Skip, The Naked Health Detective, helped launch the campaign.

It aims to encourage a fun, active and more sociable lifestyle for older people, who might be isolated and inactive, particularly in the colder months.

Jayne Woodley, chief executive of the OCF, said: “Table tennis has been an Olympic success proving that age is no barrier and is a safe and enjoyable way for older and disabled people to exercise and make new friends.

“We would like to hear from independent advice organisations and community groups who are in contact with people who struggle when temperatures drop.

“If you are an organisation or group and fit this description, please get in touch.

“Or, if you know of any groups running activities to help make the winter months more bearable for vulnerable people, please let us know.

“We will be distributing table top ping-pong sets, which contain bats, balls, and a net which can fit onto any table, to all volunteers and organisations who sign up for Get Batty.”

Last year 170 people died in the county in circumstances related to cold weather.

And according to the OCF, for every person who died, there were dozens more, mainly elderly people, suffering from isolation and hardship.

As well as encouraging groups and charities for the elderly to sign up to Get Batty, OCF hopes businesses will hold table tennis tournaments to raise funds for the Oxfordshire Surviving Winter Appeal.

It is also urging companies to give their staff time off to volunteer for Good Neighbour schemes.

Mr Jenkins said: “It is fantastic to see Oxfordshire Community Foundation encouraging people to try something new and to actively befriend neighbours who may be feeling isolated and lonely during winter.

“I am delighted to be able to give my time to Surviving Winter, and would encourage others to do the same.”

Skip the Naked Health Detective agreed: “Activity is essential to health and well being and is a great way to make friends.

“Table tennis is one of the few sports that has no gender, age, health or cultural boundaries.

“I am very pleased to be involved and giving my time to something so innovative and worthwhile.”