Initiated in 2003 by the International Council on Active Aging, the weeklong campaign challenges society’s diminished expectations of ageing by showing that, regardless of age or health conditions, adults over 50 can live as fully as possible in all areas of life — physical, social, spiritual, emotional, intellectual, vocational and environmental.
The objective of the annual event is to give as many older adults as possible the means to experience wellness activities and exercise in a safe, supportive environment. It also promotes the benefits of healthier, more active lifestyles across the life span.
According to Sport England, 27% of 55-74-year-olds and 49% of over 75s are inactive (defined as someone who, over the course of a week, does not achieve a total of 30 moderate intensity equivalent minutes of physical activity).
But yet the benefits of physical activity are clear.
Research by Share Care shows that, in addition to decreasing the likelihood of developing arthritis-related disabilities, physical activity also reduces the risk of losing mobility, improves brain function, and can even reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s by 40%. An active ageing can also extend your life, with Share Care’s research suggesting that regular exercise reduces mortality rates by 25% to 33%, and increases life expectancy by 1 to 2 years by age 80.
We also know that sport and physical activity have benefits beyond physical health, as it can also help tackle problems such as poor mental health, loneliness, and addiction.
So how can older people (and in fact adults and children of all ages) become more active?
Many purpose-built retirement communities have wellness facilities such as a gym (or even a pool), which encourages residents to be more active. Indeed a survey by the Association of Retirement Community Operators found that residents in Retirement Communities stay healthier for longer and are more active than those who live elsewhere.
In the UK, Sport England is also playing a role. Its Active Ageing fund is supporting innovative and experimental approaches that put older people at the heart of efforts to tackle inactivity, and it is investing up to £10 million of National Lottery money into 20 projects across England which are working to reduce the number of inactive older adults.
Intergenerational Living can also play a part in helping people to stay active for longer. The Channel 4 Series ‘The Old People’s Home for 4 year olds’ connected pre-schoolers with older people, with the latter showing improvements in mood, memory and mobility as a result of the interaction. In the UK a new scheme by Belong Villages, opening in Chester in 2022, will have a ‘Mirrored Learning & Care Curriculum' for its pre-schoolers and older residents, with the aim of building and developing cognitive capacity in children, and ensuring that it doesn't reduce in older people.
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