Keeping active in old age

By June Shannon Heart News   |   18th Sep 2018

NEW EU health project a lifeline for older people

Being physically active and eating healthy can have a positive effect on health and wellbeing at any age. With this in mind, Age Action in collaboration with Home Instead Senior Care, have taken part in an innovative EU pilot project aimed at encouraging older people to get active with impressive results.

The Wellbeing and Healthy Choices for Older Adults and their carers (WHOLE) is funded by the European Union under the Erasmus + programme and aims to improve the health and wellbeing of both older people and their carers.

WHOLE’s specific objective is to develop a basic e-learning platform for physical activity and healthy nutrition at home to train formal and informal carers to implement it as an integral part of the home care services they provide. Additionally, WHOLE aims to aid in the overall prevention of functional decline and frailty among older people

WHOLE aims to bring physical activity into the daily routines not only of older people, but of their formal/informal carers too, as an essential component of daily care giving.

“For all of us exercise is important and sometimes we tend to focus in on people who are mobile, and we maybe forget about those that don’t have the ability to get out and about,"

Billy O Keeffe, Programme Manager – Life Long Learning , Age Action

Speaking to the Irish Heart Foundation about the project Mr Billy O Keeffe, Programme Manager – Life Long Learning with Age Action, said that 15 older people and their carers took part in an eight-week exercise programme in their own homes.

Participants’ baseline activity levels were measured before and after the programme and the results showed that it was very effective.

Carers were trained in how to provide a simple exercise programme to the older person in their care for 30 minutes a day, three times a week. The exercises were also available to view on Utube so the older person could do it themselves if they wished when their carers were not present.

The exercises included stretches and sit/standing and walking movements. For those with mobility issues the exercises could be modified to use the upper body rather than the legs.

Commenting on the programme Mr O Keeffe said “for the majority of people it made quite a difference. It was incredibly effective and the feedback we got from the carers and the people who were participating in the project was really positive.”

“For all of us exercise is important and sometimes we tend to focus in on people who are mobile, and we maybe forget about those that don’t have the ability to get out and about. Maybe they are at home or in a residential care setting. We wanted to focus on that cohort of people with this project, those who might be forgotten about otherwise.”

“Everything has to be done under medical supervision you do what you can depending on your own abilities or disabilities we all need some form of exercise and it could be as simple as stretching your arm out or scratching your back or being able to stand out of your chair,” he said.

“We take these simple things for granted,"

Billy O Keeffe, Programme Manager – Life Long Learning , Age Action

While the exercises may seem simple to some, for others they can quite literally be a life line. Mr O Keeffe explained that one older lady who took part in the WHOLE project was determined to keep up the exercises long after the pilot ended this summer.

She had spent some time in hospital earlier this year and the exercises were helping her to reach a personal goal of being able to walk to the local shop at the end of her road by Christmas.

“We take these simple things for granted but when it fits into an older person’s life something like this, getting out of the house, walking to the shop you meet your neighbour, you go into the shop you talk to somebody on a day when you might otherwise not meet or speak to anyone all day,” Mr O Keeffe explained.

You can access some of the exercises developed by the WHOLE project here

Please ensure you have your doctor’s approval before undertaking any new exercise routine.


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