There’s never been a better time to recognise the incredible value of gyms and leisure centres in supporting the health and wellbeing of older adults and people with long-term health conditions.
These facilities provide services that are vital to achieving not only greater physical activity levels, but also improved social connections, generating significant health, economic and social value.
Sport England’s 2018/19 Active Lives Survey reported only 40 per cent of people aged over 75 were meeting the recommended chief medical officer guidelines of 150 minutes’ activity per week, meaning 60 per cent do not. This makes it even more important that the sector continually improves user experience, to ensure the right level of provision, choice and accessibility, with ability and age-appropriate offerings.
ukactive has launched an Active Ageing Consultation with the aim of developing and highlighting existing industry-wide activity options according to the level of physical activity required, not just by age group.
Months of social distancing, and increased time spent being sedentary at home has had a deconditioning effect on many people – particularly on those in mid- and later-life, and those living with long-term health conditions.
Deconditioning is real. It can lead to loss of muscle mass, stiffening of joints, loss of bone density and decreases in aerobic fitness, meaning the impacts of COVID-19 will put many more people at risk of losing functional ability sooner than they otherwise would have.
Already, research carried out by Age UK has found many older people reporting they find it harder to get around and that they are less steady on their feet compared to before the pandemic.
During the pandemic, many people’s rehabilitation programmes have been disrupted because services were paused or due to the re-prioritising of caseloads. The pandemic has also clearly highlighted the importance of rehabilitation and the need for a strategic approach to cope with increased demand from people recovering from COVID-19, as well as those awaiting paused urgent and routine planned care who have further deteriorated in their health and function.
In addition, people who avoided accessing health services during the lockdown and are now at greater risk of ill-health or other conditions developing need these services, as do people dealing with the physical and mental health effects of lockdown.
The fitness industry is well placed to help an ageing population with increasingly complex health challenges. Vital first steps include asset mapping and ensuring the primary care sector is aware of what’s on offer, so healthcare professionals can draw on these services.
The Active Ageing Consultation, led by the ukactive Research Institute, will help ukactive to develop best practice evidence for the sector, by understanding what’s currently working and what offers can be altered and improved. This involves understanding how current or future offers support activity levels, wellbeing and resilience and are ability-focused rather than just age-focused.
The success of our consultation will depend on the quality of submissions we receive, in the shape of case studies, from the sector, so please submit yours at the following link: www.HCMmag.com/activeageing