This article is brought to you by ukactive

As part of EuropeActive’s commitment to promote and safeguard an inclusive and welcoming environment for all across the fitness and physical activity ecosystem, and as part of EuropeActive’s Inclusion calendar, we are thrilled to celebrate International Day of Older Persons which takes place every year on October 1. This is further correlated with our European activities as it falls under our awareness-raising activities for our #HealthyLifestyle4All pledge.

It is well documented that the UK is becoming a progressively older nation in both absolute and relative numbers, and this has profound implications for a number of key institutions that support our daily lives. Longer life expectancy is not by itself a problem. The problem is that the number of those years spent heavily dependent on others is not decreasing, in fact in some groups it may be increasing and this increases the need for health and social care.

With an ageing population of over 12 million people over the age of 65, the Office for National Statistics projects that there will be an additional 8.6 million people over the age of 65 by 2070. Despite the known benefits of physical activity, including maintaining independence and reducing the risk of falling or fracturing bones, only 50% of adults aged 75+ complete 150 minutes of physical activity per week. Coupled with preventable long-term conditions, physical activity can help avoid unnecessary social care and we need a concerted effort to provide support and opportunities for physical activity to help older adults maintain independence and lessen the costly burden of social care.

While barriers and challenges experienced by older adults have been identified, understanding the examples of what the sector is currently doing, and older adults’ opinions around how well the current practice caters towards their needs is missing. In order to expand research in this area, it is necessary to understand what is currently working and what can be altered and improved.

To achieve this the ukactive Research Institute undertook a research consultation across the fitness and leisure sector. The findings from ukactive’s Life in our Years research identified six themes highlighting what impacts older adult’s decisions to engage in offerings, from which nine recommendations were produced. These themes and recommendations include:

      1. Having easy and accessible offerings that utilise customer feedback to make necessary adaptations to scheduling (e.g. flexibility in frequency, booking options and range of activities) and that support needs of older adults centred around maintaining strength.

2. Create, build and maintain a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere to increase likelihood of repeat usage, through fostering a sense of community and rapport between the workforce and customers and maintaining high standards of safety and facility upkeep.

3. Maintaining and increasing socialising opportunities through offerings in order to support physical, mental and social health, improve experience and drive attendance.

4. Preparing the workforce with the people skills to deliver high quality offerings primarily with knowledge on communication and interpersonal skills, and an understanding of common health conditions and how to adapt exercises to individual health needs.

5. Appropriately categorising and communicating offerings to maximise attendance by a) categorising by ability or intensity, not age; b) providing clear and detailed information about what offerings include and ability level and c) advertising intergenerational mixing.

6. Ensuring offerings support physical health and integrated health care systems long-term following the pandemic by providing sessions that address changes in physical ability, supporting physical rehabilitation of older adults from Covid-19, and continuing a digital-hybrid approach.

The full report can be seen here

Nov 2, 2023 By Ioana Marica