The last year has been an unusual and difficult one for most but for many older people it has been particularly hard, with long periods of self-isolation impacting both mental and physical wellbeing. Research by Age UK has shown that many previously independent older adults have reported a loss of physical strength and capability, finding it harder to do daily activities such as going up stairs or walking the same distances they used to. Some have embraced modern technology, learning new skills and participating in online activities, helping them to maintain their existing levels of fitness but this has not been as rewarding as getting out and spending time with friends and family.
Throughout the pandemic, Age UK Somerset have supported older people in the County. Because they help those who are most at risk from severe illness due to coronavirus, and those whose movements have been most restricted, they have been busier than ever. Despite some services being paused due to their physical nature, others sprung up to meet the new needs of this strange time, for example their telephone service called “Friendly Phone calls”, to help alleviate feelings of isolation and boredom.
The charity’s Ageing Well team, who normally run and manage hundreds of community-based exercise classes, have held a wide range of online exercise sessions since last July. These classes have encouraged older people to maintain their current levels of fitness and given them a chance to see familiar, friendly faces. Full technical support has been given by the team and classes have included Tai Chi, yoga, pilates, general fitness and relaxation sessions.
With plans to resume their community-based classes from the 17th May, Ageing Well have launched an inspiring “let’s move together and improve together” campaign. Whilst wanting to encourage older people to start coming to classes again, they are aware that many are nervous of doing so. They are putting in stringent measures to provide the greatest level of reassurance, reducing the number of participants allowed in each class and introducing a new booking system. Classes will be re-started over a number of weeks, so that the team can oversee and manage them safely and effectively. A variety of online sessions will continue to run for those who would prefer to stay at home for the time being.
The charity’s “stay strong, stay steady” classes – falls prevention sessions run in conjunction with Somerset County Council and the NHS – will also be resuming and hope to have a positive impact on the strength and balance of vulnerable adults.