For people aged 55 and upward, staying active and healthy has never been as big a challenge as it is currently – but help and hope is at hand.
Times don’t get much tougher than the current lockdown, not just because of the effects of being isolated but also given the winter weather that can make outdoor activity more awkward.
A survey for Sport Wales conducted last October found that over 55s in Wales were more likely to say they were doing less exercise than before the pandemic.
The biggest decline in adults doing exercise five or more times a week has also been among the over 55s.
But the good news is that some other recent reports have suggested that older people can often prove extremely resilient in finding different ways to keep active, both physically and mentally.
With maturity comes wisdom, they say. That might be the reason for older people showing they know a thing or two about the importance of staying fit and healthy when times are bad.
So, how are they doing it and what can more older people throughout Wales do to improve their own activity levels?
Where do you go, to gain some get up and go?
- There’s a lot of information out there, but we have tried to put it all in one place, through a campaign called, #BeActiveWales.
On the page devoted to older adults, there are tips and ideas from different organisations about how to stay healthy in mind and body, during these times of lockdown and shielding.
You can find them here: https://www.sport.wales/beactivewales-campaign/older-adults-advice-and-resources/
- Age Cymru have advice for how to stay active including videos showing LIFT exercises (Low Impact Functional Training) that can be done at home, either seated or standing.
There are Sport Wales’ own gentle exercise videos, guides on walking and yoga, plus support for disabled people.
There are also tips from a couple of Wales’ true sporting legends – Lynn Davies and Phil Bennett, both now in their 70s – on how to look after yourself during lockdown.
- A number of Welsh councils have put their efforts into sport and leisure services online help and support for older people, given that classes held at leisure centres are not currently operating.
Ceredigion council have some lively step class videos featuring Chelsey as well as Welsh language fitness videos, Ffit Yn 5 digidol.
- Newport Live have a “Happy and Healthy at Home” page on their website including tips to stay fit at home and “Lockdown Bingo”, pre-recorded exercise classes and much more.
Keeping minds active during lockdown periods is just as vital as looking after our bodies. Reading, puzzle-solving, getting creative and engaging with others will all benefit mental well-being during times when older people are in danger of feeling alone or uninspired.
- Parkinson’s UK Cymru have help for staying healthy – both physically and mentally – including help with making daily plans and routines.
Another organisation that uses sport to help older people is Sporting Memories. They use the power of reminiscing about sport to keep people connected and active and tackle loneliness and depression.
With the charity’s usual group work meetings suspended, they have come up with the Sporting Memories #KITbag – a kit bag which they are delivering to people’s homes.
The kit bag pack includes exercise equipment for building strength, a DVD, sports reminiscence resources and a personalised record book.
Everyone who asks for the kit bag, will also receive phone calls from the charity to help them get started and check on their progress.
Nikki Foster, Wales project coordinator, says: “Recipients receive regular keep-in-touch (KIT) phone calls where we offer motivation and general conversation, as well as the opportunity to join an online Sporting Memories Club or telephone circle.
“All participants receive a record book, with which to track their progress. This gives us something to talk over, too. After 3 months, participants receive a new booklet and every month, copies of our Sporting Pink reminiscence paper. Importantly, we also engage with carers.”
The Sporting Pink is based on the old sports newspapers that used to be published on a Saturday evening, such as the “Football Echo” in Cardiff and the green “The Sporting” that was published in Swansea – guaranteed to get the memories flowing.
The Sporting Memories #KITbag programme is funded by the Healthy and Active Fund, of which Sport Wales is a partner.
You can also sign up for the digital Sporting Pink.
The sport sector and beyond have all piled together to ensure that older adults still have the opportunity and support to stay active through the tough winter months of lockdown. Give your Mam-gu or Grandad a call to remind them how important it is to keep moving, and keep smiling.