“Active Ageing”

Britain’s chief medical officers issued new guidance on exercise this month.  It was a straight forward and encouraging report because it emphasised that moderate exercise was good for you.  No need to be working up a sweat in the gym :-), providing you do it frequently – short 10 minute walks, ironing, housework, shopping and even just standing up can all help.

The report underlines the fact that “older people should try to be active every day” and goes on to say “being active has enormous health and well-being benefits.  It protects against many of the biggest causes of early death like heart disease and strokes, and can promote good mental health”.

In the ExtraCare Charitable Trust retirement housing projects, there are many ways of keeping active:-

– The obvious – exercise classes,  armchair aerobics,  tai chi,  swimming;

– The vigorous – work out in the gym to a fitness programme on exercise machines;

– The leisurely – walking,  dancing,  gardening,  fishing,  archery,  bowls;

– The adventurous – the annual ‘Brolly Walk’, cycling from Land’s End to John O’Groats (in the gym);

– The occasionally spectacular – walking with wolves, completing the three peaks challenge, swimming with dolphins in Mexico and walking the Great Wall of China;

Meanwhile, the same Department of Health that issued these new guidelines is also responsible for funding thousands of older people in residential care, who are left sitting in chairs all day and never go outside at all.  Its appointed regulator, the Care Quality Commission, happlessly watches on, blissfully ignorant of any need to promote active lifestyles for older people.

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7 Responses to “Active Ageing”

  1. Maureen o'Neill says:

    John, How very true this is. Unfortunately some of the older type of residential homes do not have the room to spare for any exercise etc. It occurs to me, as a once lively and active teacher, that maybe it would be a good idea if some of the retired PE teachers visited some of the residential homes and could at least do arm chair exercises with the residents. I haven’t forgotten visiting a friend’s mother who was in a nursing home and new to the life. Television was on and most of the people were sleeping until the rattle of cups disturbed some .Tea was brought round and a lovely slab of fruitcake.
    “I could get used to this ” she said.” It is nice being waited on!”
    ‘Nuff said.

  2. With the possible concept of a ‘Virual Village’ one can be said to be pandering to the arm chair types. I donot believe this is the case. The human spirit values its independance, and how doe we as we all grow older get fitter? There are plenty of aids (Not enough) some may say to help with picking up objects, opening of containers, travelling from a To B in a cetain locality? All these are a godsend to the afflicted. I do not deride them. One question I do ask is how does the ‘Well being of a person improve-walking/swimming/gynastics, and other genrtle exercises? I think and believe it is people who matter and encourage others to be more mobile up to a point of sheer exhaustion with themselves. You need a good and well based well being/health programme (Maybe not based totally on outlandish physical effort and sweat) but on gentle determination, and education to avoid the pitfalls of obeseity, laziness etc. Some ailments are heriediarty but then we can all have our targets for a day, month or hour and minute, so long as we believe in them, and others can help and enjoy the company of those less able with a smile and a few kind words or jesture.
    The virtual village can promote these aspirations, and help communitities to get along no matter what the age group mix. It is people who matter, and at a elderly age and sanquine or raving mad one is over 18 and has a vote so long as they can register. So go on be a devil-VOTE?

  3. Jon Cleaver says:

    Having been involved in the early years of ExtraCare, although to an extent funding by the Department of Health is paramount to the continued care of older people; I do believe that at the grass routes it does require more than money.

    I refer here to the mindset principle. I well recall my first real look at how hospitals housed older people on what was horribly termed ‘Geriatric’ wards with little hope.

    I remember watching my own father depart this life at was the old Whitley Hospital, looking round the ward there were men and women, not all at deaths door but without much hope of recovery. I remember thinking this is not right.

    I then came across a charity that would change my life, spur me on to do what I do now as a journalist. CCHA ExtraCare a charity that really cared, at its heart a man with a wonderful vision that has inspire thousands of older people.

    John Graham brought about great changes in how our older people are cared for, displaying an energy and insight that has changed and inspired older people to stay fitter, live longer and maintain a good quality of life.

    Yes, a charity was conceived, money was raised, development has taken place, but all of this would have counted for nothing without the mindset of John and his dedicated team, in turning those stationary chairs lined against the walls into the musical chairs of energy, activity and self fulfilment we have today.

    The radical re-think long overdue, how to get our older people motivated to do anything they want to do, be it loop the loop in a glider at the age of 95, sail a tall ship or in the case of a stroke victim to be able to play desk top skittles, all of this would not have happened without the mindset, drive, ambition and dedication of one man and his team.

    Thank you, John Graham OBE.

    • john graham says:

      Thanks for your very kind comments Jon, and remember that you were and still are a very important part of ExtraCare too.
      Volunteers are a central element of the model of support offered to residents.
      No volunteer has contributed more than you over the 20 ? years you have been coming to ExtraCare. Your photographic and journalistic skills have raised the self-esteem of many hundreds of residents directly and indirectly thousands more who see themselves through your eyes.


  4. Syreeta says:

    Enjoy the modern look. I really liked this article. Thank you for a useful post.

  5. John on a more serious note I comment below:
    Age and what does it mean as we enter our golden years and ultimate demise?
    I ponder finger in fundamental orifice, and my mind blank, ‘lights on but not at Home’, but I still have all my chairs.
    In entering a village complex and community such as an Extracare Village, I have been asked by those outside, friends included why? Are you not too young?
    The answer is simple I enjoy the choice and decision I made with my wife when the opportunity arose in 2007 at the age of 65 and my wife at 62.
    What I wonder is what are they asking in respect of their personal life.
    Most of the people have a property/home they have their cherished memories about them, their families have flown the nest, and they have good neighbours: Why change all that for a retirement village?
    Here I am going to ramble! My childhood was spent mainly in Yorkshire, my working life and my married life I was and we were gypsies following my career in the shipping industry. With one thing and another I found myself a commuter for London. My final years being spent away from home in Norwich, on a weekly basis.
    My immediate family have settled in the Bedfordshire area, and my siblings and their families with my mum and my wife’s sibling still live in Yorkshire. To both me and my wife the choice of retirement location wise was Bedfordshire/Buckinghamshire, and we lived the last 12 years of our working life in Milton Keynes: That was also the location.
    That deals with location, now I wish to deal with age related problems.
    Moving into the Extracare retirement Village and meeting our then and now our neighbours of varying ages and abilities/mobility and health requirements, has only endorsed the personal choice I made to enlist in the Extracare Village.
    Experiences. As a village volunteer you meet many residents (and ‘Friends’ of Extracare), some moved in with their partners/ spouses and have since been bereaved, some are single and some moved in as a widow or widower. Noticing their personal attitudes to life is inspiring as they make new acquaintances and friends in the village. Then there are those who move in because of problems where the spouse remains in the family home, and they partake of village life. This can be for a variety of personal problems such as the care and attention cannot be obtained for the spouse and the village environment and ethos offers a solution, or it can be from choice. These difficult decisions are taken in the main by the older 75+ residents who move to the village for sustenance and security.
    One thing and a decision which was abundantly clear was that at over 70 the trauma of moving in and down-sizing was very distressing, both for the individuals concerned and the family.
    Reflecting on what different villagers ‘friends’ and neighbours consider important to them personally, I believe I was lucky in engaging the Extracare Charitable Trust when I did, and most of these problems I mention ‘God Willing’ allow myself and my wife a future joint life together, no doubt with some sad occasions, but mainly with happy ones in the knowledge that we made joint decisions.
    I have rambled metaphorically from the ‘Cow and Calf Rocks to Dick Hudson’s, across Ilkley Moor (Rombolds Moor): It is now time to take in refreshment and enjoy the sunset. One cloud on the horizon is the onset of dementia and alzhieimers. Although terrifying with the Known village soundings and my neighbours, I trust we will all ‘Go to Hell in a handcart together’? I take solace in the fact that I know where I am, and as I follow ‘Extracare’ and the locksmiths programme, then someone somewhere will be able to help me. This has bought me piece of mind.
    I just wonder as I talk to friends and family outside the ‘Extracare Retirement Village ‘ environment: What are they thinking, they ask me but always retract into their own comfort zone, and I wonder if they consider what If I become a widower, What if I die first?, what if I lose my good health?, what happens to my neighbours when I am 70 or 80+ will they still talk to me, will or could I become a burden on them or the state or my family? Can I manage a family home into my dotage? Change is very uncomfortable and once one may have reached 75+ from anecdotal evidence from this my retirement village and friends it is a mountain to climb, and it can be very lonely, and extremely frightening.

    • john graham says:

      Thanks David. That is a very insightful piece on the issues you have to consider when moving home as you approach retirement. I guess the key is to make the decision early because it must be much harder to disentangle your motives when circumstances force you to move.

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