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Hope researchers and Age Concern call for more group exercise for elderly

Age Concern Tuesday 14 March 2017

Researchers at Liverpool Hope University have joined forces with Age Concern Liverpool & Sefton CEO Dil Daly to call for more government funding for group exercise programmes and practical nutrition advice for the elderly. 

The government has projected that by 2037, there will be 1.42 million more households headed by someone aged 85 or over – an increase of 161 per cent over 25 years (Future of an Ageing Population Report, Government Office for Science, 2016).

Researchers from Liverpool Hope’s School of Health Sciences are carrying out two major multidisciplinary research projects into healthy ageing – one is a clinical study that looks at the impact of exercise and nutrition on different aspects of healthy ageing, while the other investigates the health benefits of playing tennis as we age.

Dr Omid Alizadehkhaiyat, Associate Professor in Health Sciences at Liverpool Hope, said: “While participants in the healthy ageing study will take part in both individual and group exercise sessions, the study considers group-based exercises as an imperative part. Motivation and enjoyment is key to sustaining any exercise programme, and this is where the group element can play an important role. Even from speaking to study participants in their initial assessment, it is clear just how group participation in physical activity can empower their social engagement and enhance their quality of life.”

Participants between the ages of 60 and 90 in the clinical study “Exercise, Nutrition and Ageing” are being given specific nutrition plans and will take part in both individual and group exercise, including walking groups, dance lessons and fitness classes. The researchers are taking a range of measures including balance, muscle strength, gait, physical and mental wellbeing, and the ability to perform everyday tasks such as getting in and out of a chair.

Chief Executive of Age Concern Liverpool & Sefton Dil Daly believes that making group exercise and practical nutrition advice more accessible could have a knock on effect on easing problems of so-called ‘bed blocking’ in the NHS.

Dil said: “We are reading more and more stories about older people not being allowed to leave hospital because they cannot look after themselves at home. We need to put more preventative measures in place to help people age more healthily and recover more quickly when they do find themselves in hospital.

“Isolation has a massive impact on older adults’ overall health. That is why we are so interested in this study’s focus on group activity as well as nutrition. At Age Concern Liverpool & Sefton, we see time and again that when older people live alone, their diet suffers too. A less nutritious diet and less exercise, combined with the fact that as we age we lose muscle mass, can create exactly the circumstances that lead to longer recovery times and lower levels of wellbeing and general health”.

“What is encouraging about this study is that it is measuring the impact of both dietary interventions and group exercise on completing everyday activities, such as walking and getting out of a chair. If, as a result of this research, we can give our service users simple advice on the small things they can do, and get more evidence to support our call for more access to group exercise for older people, we can make a massive difference to the lives of older people across the UK.”

Dr Farzad Amirabdollahian, Associate Professor in Nutrition at Liverpool Hope, added: “Combining the right dietary regime with exercise can give us the maximum health benefits as we age. Government-funded programmes that offer practical nutritional advice, alongside opportunities to access group exercise, could actually save money in the long term. We may all be living longer, but it is important that we are living well.”

Members of the public are invited to learn more about the Exercise, Nutrition and Ageing study and the Tennis and Ageing study at a drop-in Healthy Ageing Lecturethon on Tuesday 14th March at Liverpool Hope University. See the full programme here.  

The event starts at 9.30am. Dil Daly, Chief Executive of Age Concern, will be the guest speaker and will open the event. 

The event is free (optional donation of £1 to raise money for Age Concern) and takes place in the EDEN Lecture Theatre, EDEN Building, Liverpool Hope University, Hope Park, Taggart Avenue from 9.30am.

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