Our Active Ageing fund is supporting innovative and experimental approaches that put older people at the heart of our efforts to tackle inactivity.
The projects we’re funding are using sport and activity to help tackle problems such as poor mental health, dementia, loneliness caused by bereavement, and addiction.
We know that 36% of people aged 55 and over are currently inactive, compared to 26% of the population as a whole.
But we also know that the over 55s age group is diverse: there are big differences in perceptions, experiences, motivations and capabilities.
That’s why the 20 projects we’ve invested in are broad, with the audience’s wants and needs intrinsic to them.
Location: Birmingham, Telford and Wrekin, Solihull and Derby
Overcoming any kind of addiction should not be done alone. But through sport and groups like Aquarius – a charity that offers free and confidential information and support – help is at hand.
Following the recommendation of an Aquarius staff member, 51-year-old Anthony Hill conquered his alcoholism and turned his life around when he joined a weekly walking football club.
“I still find getting up on a morning a challenge, but knowing I’ve got football club, I make myself get up and go," he says. "It massively improves my mood – even my girlfriend has commented how much better I seem on the days when I play. Had it not been for Aquarius and walking football, I would have lost my battle with addiction. They have saved my life.”
Guys and St Thomas's NHS Trust: Health Innovation Network
Part of our funding strategy for an active ageing population also extends to rehabilitation programmes.
ESCAPE-pain – a six-week programme delivered by physiotherapists in hospital outpatient departments – teaches people about their condition, shows them what they can do to help themselves and guides them through exercises that allow them to do more.
The programme taught Coleen, 84, a retired nurse who suffered knee pain for many years, to manage her condition. Although she still has some pain, she doesn’t feel knee surgery is now necessary. “It’s much less and it doesn’t bother me, I know how to cope now,” she says.
Location: Across England
This award-winning social enterprise delivers fun, inclusive and subsidised exercise sessions to older adults.
One of Oomph!'s success stories has been in Plymouth, where they were called upon by the local council to train 18 instructors to run exercise classes in various community venues.
Joyce, a participant who has been attending weekly sessions at a local church, said: “It’s the best thing I have ever done. I am 92 and it keeps me going!”
Cotman Housing Association
Location: Norfolk and Suffolk
Cotman Housing Association provide physical activity sessions at sheltered housing schemes in East Anglia, so that older people living in the schemes and residents from the neighbourhoods can benefit from weekly tailored personal fitness sessions and virtual fitness classes.
Cotman tenant June Simpson, 82, says of the sessions: “Having keep fit at the scheme enables us to keep our bodies and minds in better condition. It keeps my joints supple, our minds active and it’s good for fellowship and team working.”
Caroline Miles, sheltered housing manager at Cotman, said: “These activity sessions have been an inspiration. We're already seeing a visible difference, with customers demonstrating greater independence, self-confidence and motivation.”
British Gymnastics Foundation: Love to Move
Location: Across England
Love to Move is a seated gymnastics programme which is transforming the lives of people living with dementia.
Dementia had caused Hazel, 93, to become withdrawn from life. But after being persuaded to try Love to Move classes in her care home in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, she regained functions she thought were lost, including using her hands to do crafts, knit and play bingo.
She also eats dinner with everyone else and is talking more. Hazel’s daughter Gill says: “You can’t believe the difference. She’s 93 and now she’s wanting to learn to stand so she can go home in the car. We just feel lucky to have had the opportunity to do it because it has made such a difference.”
Sporting Memories Foundation
Location: Across England
Sporting Memories Network supports older people living with dementia, depression and loneliness by engaging them in social activities and helping them recall memories of watching or playing sport.
Vin Riley has dementia and has attended the weekly Sporting Memories group at Northallerton Library in Yorkshire with his wife Chris since its earliest days. Through the group the couple have tried various taster sessions of different sports and have made many new friends.
Vin says: “It’s brilliant. You think back to when you were kids; what you could do. I used to love sport at school, cross country running was my favourite. Coming here is great.”
Why we’re investing in inactivity
We have an ageing population – the number of people aged 60 or over is expected to pass the 20 million mark by 2030 according to the Office for National Statistics.
Our research shows that as you get older, you’re far more likely to be inactive and do less than 30 minutes of physical activity a week.
But those who are least active stand to benefit the most in terms of their health and happiness by getting active, even if it’s just small changes like walking slightly faster or further than you normally do, or planning 10 minutes of yoga with friends or work colleagues every morning.
We’re working with partners to learn and understand more about how we should support inactive older adults. In particular, we want to find approaches that could be replicated across the country that make a significant difference to many more people’s lives.
We’re also investing in projects that support people in lower socio-economic groups.