Residents across Cornwall have been doing their bit during the coronavirus pandemic by staying home to save lives, but now that restrictions are easing, older people are being encouraged to get more active.
The British Geriatric Society, Age UK and the Centre for Ageing Better have all expressed concerns about the likelihood that, with the ongoing pandemic, older people are more likely to restrict their usual activities
With growing concerns about the impact of low levels of physical activity, Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (CFT) is launching a new campaign, #SitLessMoveMore, aimed at the 135,000 people in Cornwall and Isles of Scilly who are over 65 years old.
Alex Gorree-Wery, a physiotherapist and falls specialist at CFT explained why it’s so important for the over 65s to get moving: “While people are helping to keep themselves safe, and minimise the spread of the virus, they are putting themselves at risk of ‘deconditioning’. Basically, when we are inactive our muscles become weaker and we may then lose confidence in doing everyday activities. This makes us less independent and able to enjoy life. The #SitLessMoveMore campaign is being introduced to encourage older people to build more movement into their daily lives, even if it’s something simple like standing up during TV adverts.
“As a physio and falls specialist I know deconditioning can be reversed,” Alex continued. “We need to act now to get the message to older people in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly to sit less and move more. It’s an approach more than an exercise programme because it’s about all the little changes each day that add up to a big difference overall.”
Wendy Bellman, 90, from Mount Hawke, was referred to the falls service earlier this year.
She said: “After I fell, I was too afraid to go out. I wanted help to get out and about again like I used to. Donna from the falls service visited me several times and showed me some exercises which helped with my balance. Moving about more loosened me up and once I was walking better, I had the confidence to get out and about again. It helped me get my whole life back together again.”
As part of the campaign, adult community services staff including district and community nurses are being encouraged to have conversations with their patients about sitting less and moving more with the help of prompt cards.
Marie Prior, clinical lead for frailty, falls, and ageing well programme, said: “Many of the factors that cause people to age differently can be influenced by the choices we make such as how active we are, our diet and how we look after ourselves. Frailty and falling are not an inevitable part of ageing, but there are biological changes that come with ageing that decrease our ability to bounce back from stressors, making physical activity really important if we are to age well.
“Research last year showed that even light exercise can make a difference. It’s about keeping older people independent for as long as possible, ensuring they have a good quality of life. As health and care professionals, we all need to use every opportunity we have to start having a conversation and encouraging people, especially older people to increase their activity levels.”
Adults should aim to be active daily, in bouts of at least 10 minutes and total at least 150 minutes per week. The prompt cards are available for anyone to use to start a conversation about sitting less and moving more: www.cornwallft.nhs.uk/frailty-falls-and-ageing-well