‘You are an amazing example to older people’

The fitness class at Crossgates Neighbourhood Network

The fitness class at Crossgates Neighbourhood Network

Did anyone see Britain’s Got Talent last week? Well thanks to 79 year old Paddy and her dance partner, Nico, 40, the pair went viral, stunning judges and the audience alike. After what is fair to say a ‘slow start’, Paddy exploded into life, doing a series of splits as she was swung about the stage. Talking about the grandma of 7, Judge David Walliams said: ‘You are an amazing example to older people’, before Alesha Dixon added: ‘I pray to God I am like you when I’m your age and bravo Nico.’

Now I’m by no means suggesting that we all take up acrobatics, but I do think there is a valuable lesson to be learnt here. And to quote a former local legend, who was still playing ping pong at the age of 91 until he sadly passed away last year; Les D’Arcy once said during an interview with him, ‘Don’t just think you can’t do it, because you can!’

Leeds has a wealth of sports and wellbeing facilities to suit all abilities. In today’s blog, Allyson Bertram, Older Peoples’ Sport Officer at Leeds City Council, talks to us about ‘Active Ageing’, and explains what we can all do, no matter what your age, to keep you young at heart.

Hi Allyson, could you briefly tell me how you support older adults in the city?
As Older Peoples’ Sport Officer I promote Active Ageing.

The term ‘active ageing’ refers to being active as you age rather than focusing solely on individuals within a specific age range. People are at different life stages and therefore require different physical activity needs. For example:

  • People who are already active, either through an active job and/or who are engaged in regular recreational or sporting activity.
  • People whose function is declining due to low levels of activity, too much sedentary time, who may have lost muscle strength and/or are overweight, have developed or are recovering from an illness.
  • Those described as frail or have very low physical or cognitive function perhaps as a result of chronic disease such as arthritis, dementia, or very old age itself.

So, we’ve heard about ‘Leeds Let’s Get Active’ but what is it all about?
Free access to Leeds City Council leisure centre gyms and swimming pools, plus free walking, beginner running and family sport activities in communities who do not have easy access to a leisure centre. This programme is bigger than my role however, so I am involved in promoting this to older adults.

What sort of activities or services do you offer?
I promote activities being delivered by others, support community groups to set up their own activities and provide information when contacted by individuals, giving consideration to the quality of the provision.

How does this benefit older people?
Participating in sport and physical activity will help to improve overall fitness, muscle strength, balance, co-ordination, mobility and flexibility, as well as helping to manage weight, if done on a regular basis.

Apart from the obvious physical benefits, what are the other benefits?
Active ageing is about preventing illness, enjoying recreation and social interaction through sport and physical activity. It’s about developing resilience to the things that happen in life, maintaining mobility, independence and quality of life.

Sport and physical activity can provide ‘somewhere to go and something to do’ for older adults, as an individual or in a group.

What is recommended for older people?
The National Physical Activity Guidelines for older adults are –

  • You should aim to be active daily. At least 150 minutes (2½ hours) of moderate intensity activity in bouts of 10 minutes or more every week.
  • Alternatively, comparable benefits can be achieved through 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity spread across the week or combinations of moderate and vigorous intensity activity.
  • You should also undertake physical activity to improve muscle strength on at least two days a week.
  • You should minimise the amount of time spent being sedentary for extended periods.
  • Older adults at risk of falls should incorporate physical activity to improve balance and co‑ordination on at least two days a week.

To help explain these guidelines with real life examples a booklet ‘Be active and healthy as you get older’ has been developed in Leeds. Please contact me if you would like a copy or several copies for your organisation.

What are the main challenges for you?
When you ask older adults what they want or need, they rarely say sport or more physical activity, even though we know there are many benefits (as highlighted above).

I link with community organisations and other public services to make sure I’m getting the Active Ageing message out as far as possible.

Do you have some top tips on how people can help themselves?
There are different reasons why older adults participate in sport and physical activity. You may be looking for fun and social interaction, the prospect of some competition or to try something new, the physical benefits will then be an added extra.

Tips to get you started and keep you going:

  1. Plan what you are going to do and when.
  2. Set a date and stick to it.
  3. Set yourself achievable goals to help keep you motivated.
  4. Keep a record of your progress.
  5. Share your success with family and friends (or even do it with them!)

How can people find out more about accessing these services?

A big thanks to Allyson for speaking to us, and a happy Easter to everyone – enjoy the break!

Gurpreet Sarai

About betterlivesleeds

Health, social and age-related care services working together to make Leeds the best city for health and wellbeing
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