Ageing actively in an increasingly inactive world: maintaining the strength, confidence and health of seniors
As recent as 2019, approximately 9 per cent of the world’s global population (over 700 million persons) were aged 65 year or older. With this figure predicted to more than double to 1.5 billion people by 2050, there is a lot of discussion going on as to how society can work to maintain and even improve the quality of life for this ever-growing demographic. Some of the most common concern pertaining to this group are that of physical abilities and social interactions.
It’s no secret that as we age, our bodies begin to lose their virility and strength. It’s also true that the older one gets, the likelihood of losing similarly aged friends and loved ones increases due to natural causes; leading to a more isolated and less socially active existence. What if, though, through a means of providing a physically activating and socially inclusive outdoor recreation space, could communities begin to address these issues and provide senior citizens an outlet to maintain their physical abilities, while also establishing regular periods of socialization and interaction? These are the points that the ENJOY project identified and sought to address through their study, conducted in 2021.
Conducted in Australia by Associate Professor Pazit Levinger from the National Ageing Research Institute of Australia with her team Maya Panisset, Jeremy Dunn, Terry Haines, Briony Dow, Frances Batchelor, Stuart Biddle, Gustavo Duque and Keith D Hill., the Exercise interveNtion outdoor proJect in the cOmmunitY for older people (the ENJOY project) studied the impact of increased physical activity amongst seniors. Utilizing Lappset’s Senior Sport product line, participants (all of whom were all 60 years of age or older) followed a 12-week, structured and supervised physical activity program. Following the 12-week program, participants were monitored during a 6-month maintenance phase; intended to evaluate and determine the benefits the physical activity program provided to participants in regards to physical and mental health well-being. Surveys were conducted at the end of each phase to ascertain the effectivity of the project, according to the participants’ responses. Participants’ access to the equipment was monitored electronically, as a means to validate responses following the 6-month maintenance phase.
How to support the elderly to an active and social lifestyle
Before digging into the results of this study, let us first understand some of the reasons for it being conducted, as well as familiarize ourselves with some background information as to why the ENJOY project was initially commissioned. With more than a quarter of the world’s population (1.4 billion people) and fewer than half of older adults in most countries being sufficiently active to maintain a physically healthy state, it has become a crucial issue in terms of global health and wellness. Being that habits are built throughout our lifetimes, and become much more difficult to break or modify as we get older, the threshold to overcome these challenges and modify habits must be lower and more attainable; with a low degree of difficulty so that users will make permanent, lifestyle changes.
Another prominent reason for conducting and commissioning the ENJOY project was to monitor the effects that it had on social interaction amongst seniors. A dynamic shift has been happening over the past few decades in senior centers and retirement communities, wherein physical activity intended to maintain abilities have become more prominently featured and practiced; rather than activities that are seen as less active, such as playing cards or bingo. Tackling the glaring issue of seclusion and loneliness among seniors has long been a challenge for communities, but by including them in regular group-oriented, physical activities it was determined that this social interaction was the most frequently mentioned health benefit among all participants.
Positive feedback from the participants
Feedback from the ENJOY project was overwhelmingly positive with an majority of participants (98.6%) saying that they either agreed or strongly agreed to having enjoyed participating in the program. Combining the same two answer options, 93.5% said that they enjoyed exercising outdoors, 94.7% enjoyed the social aspect of the program, 97.4% appreciated being supervised during their sessions and 98.7% felt safe while exercising.
The last of these may seem like a bit of a footnote, but in actuality a vast majority of seniors hold themselves back and prefer to avoid doing common, everyday tasks because they feel insecure or unsafe in their own abilities. By providing someone to supervise and coach participants through their sessions, these fears were nearly completely eliminated. Additionally, because of having been properly familiarized and guided through this program, 92% of participants confirmed that they planned to continue to use the Senior Sport facilities; even after the project had concluded.
Equipment should be found close by
Some very important info was also gathered concerning the location and placement of facilities like the one use in the ENJOY project. 69.7% of participants said that the proximity to the community center was important to them and that 74.3% would like to see equipment installed close to their residence. These two important responses tell us that simply having senior-friendly equipment installed in a park or playground is not enough, but rather that it must be located closely to where seniors live and/or congregate.
60% of participants said that the social aspect of engaging in group, physical activity was important to their continued use of the facilities while 41.5% said that the health benefits/improvement possibilities was a key factor. Given these statistics, one can conclude that group-based physical activity programs that offer social gatherings can drastically improve the adherence to a change in lifestyle as well as positively influence the behavior and general perception of physical activity amongst older adults.
Curious about how Lappset can help to improve the health and well-being of your community’s senior citizens? Please feel free to contact us.
Lark Industries, a Lappset channel partner in Australia is an official partner with the National Aging Institute of Australia.
Levinger, Pazit; Dunn, Jeremy; Panisset, Maya; Haines, Terry; Dow, Briony; Batchelor, Frances; Biddle, Stuart J.H.; Duque, Gustavo; Hill, Keith D. The ENJOY Project: Usage and Factors to Support Adherence and Physical Activity Participation, Translational Journal of the ACSM: Summer 2021 - Volume 6 - Issue 3 - p 1-6 doi: 10.1249/TJX.0000000000000163 https://journals.lww.com/acsm-tj/Fulltext/2021/07150/The_ENJOY_Project__Usage_and_Factors_to_Support.1.aspx