David out walking

Why It’s Important for Older People to be Active at Home and How Can We Help

There are over 7.3 million people aged 70+ in England. Following the Latest Government Advice, most will be staying at home. Some will be able to go outside for their daily exercise and others will not be going out at all.

Particularly amongst this age group, the feeling of loneliness has been heightened.

Now is the time, more importantly than ever, to encourage and inspire older people to remain active in their homes, and boost their mood, mobility and wellbeing.

To get a real sense of daily life for an over 70 year old, we spoke to David. David is 80 and recently widowed. David describes his experience of trying to stay well and active whilst being at home alone during the coronavirus crisis.

Tell Us a Bit About Yourself

“My name is David, I live in a small village. I lost my wife last December so I’m on my own. I’ve been staying at home for over two weeks now.

People in the village are able to bring me shopping. I go out for walks but other than that I’m not very active and don’t do much exercise really now.”

Were You Active Before You Were Advised to Stay at Home?

“Before I was advised to stay at home, I was playing golf a couple of times a week. Also walking, maybe to the shops or to the pub to meet friends. A fairly active life.”

What Has Been the Hardest, What Have You Missed?

“I think the social side, going to a coffee shop with a paper and sitting, people watching. Or just playing golf with my friends, meeting up with them for an hour in the evening. Mainly it’s the isolation that’s been the hardest.”

How does it Feel to Spend So Much Time on Your Own?

“Sometimes you get depressed, you get lonely and you wonder what the hell you are going to do next. I’m lucky, I like music, I read a lot and I’ve ordered some jigsaw puzzles.

You’ve got to convince yourself that what you are doing is worthwhile otherwise you get frustrated with life and you start to think ‘what’s it all about?’. It can be very depressing. Family and friends keeping in touch is really important.”

What Have You Done to Try and Stay Active Since Staying at Home and Has It Been Hard to Get Motivated?

“It’s hard to be motivated as I haven’t done enough. I keep thinking I will get onto the internet and find some exercise classes I could follow.

Every weekday I’m trying to go for a walk. I don’t go at weekends so that it feels like a weekend, if that makes sense.

I have a small garden and I’m enjoying doing a bit out there. I’m also doing some decorating.

One of the things I’m conscious of is I have to be careful. The other day I slipped in the shower and fell over. I thought at the time, it would be dreadful if I injured myself and had to go to hospital in the current coronavirus situation. So, I’m careful with the decorating as I don’t want to fall off a ladder or something. At 80, your bones are pretty fragile.

I’m lucky with the garden, I’d be lost without it. I’m planning to grow some veg and when the sun shines, I can go and sit out there. It gives me an interest. I need to feel I am achieving something even if it’s only for myself.”

If You Did Look Online, What Kinds of Things Would You Be Interested In?

“One of the problems with most old people is their joints and their muscles.

I have been told if I could do more of the right sort of exercises, I could actually make getting up and down, putting on socks, crouching, lifting things up, those sorts of things, easier. I find it difficult to bend or get down low.

If it’s possible to build muscles that is, at 80?”

Is it Important on Your Walks to Connect to Nature Rather Than Just Doing the Exercise?

“Yes, it’s incredibly therapeutic! When you get out there just looking at the scenery and the greenery, the blue sky, the birds, it’s mind clearing. It does wonders for you.”

So When It’s All Over?

“I’m hoping it will be all over, when ever that will be? Maybe it won’t be until Christmas?”

What happens to older people when it ends, when the isolation eases off. Will it still be safe, that’s something I worry about. I will be vulnerable.”

A lot of us will be able to relate to David right now during this difficult period.

You may be feeling similar to David. Struggling at times and feeling down, wondering when this will all end. Having concerns about being at home alone, getting injured and finding the right things to keep you active, strong and positive.

Or, you may have a loved one in a similar situation to David, that you are worried about.

So what can we do?

Connect to Nature

David highlights the wonderful feelings he experiences when he connects to nature, whether that’s in his own garden or going for a short walk locally.

Many studies show that connecting to nature is hugely beneficial to our wellbeing. If you are well enough, and ensuring you follow the Latest Government Guidelines, going for a walk can have such a positive impact to your physical health and mental wellbeing.

Take Part in our Free Online Activity Sessions

To help David, whilst he’s at home, we talked to him about some great tools and resources we are now providing. Some of which are specifically for older people, including free online activity sessions, to help keep the stiff joints away and support older people to keep moving.

And, we are really pleased to say that David is now doing the ‘Make Movement Your Mission with Later Life Training’ sessions three times a day, and really enjoying them.

“At first I thought it was too gentle for me as I am fairly fit but as it has developed I feel it is good for me and I am now a regular!”

We recommend you also take a look at ’10 Today Physical Activity for Older People’, which you only need a radio to join in with. These 10 minute movement exercises every day will get you stretching and moving.

Or you may like to tune into and take part in ‘Armchair Exercise’ on BBC Radio Devon. These simple functional moves are designed to mobilise creaky hips, knees, ankles, shoulders and the mind, whilst listening to some great music!

To see all our free online activity sessions, plus other useful content relating to the coronavirus outbreak click here.

We also want to bust a common myth that David mentions: “can I build muscle at 80?”

The answer is yes! There are many safe and easy ways you can improve your strength and balance and mental and physical wellbeing, even at this time and whilst at home, as long as you are well enough.

We’d Love to Hear How You’re Getting On

When you have tried some of these activity sessions, we’d love to hear how you are getting on. What’s your favourite? What difference is it making to your physical health and wellbeing? Send us your comments to @activedevon.

This article is written by Tom Mack – Programmes Manager Leading on Active Ageing at Active Devon

During these strange and challenging times, we believe that:

“Everybody should stay at home and follow the latest government advice, protecting the NHS and saving lives. However, it is also more important than ever that people keep moving, as physical activity is crucial to good health and mental wellbeing. Throughout this crisis, here at Active Devon we’re doing all we can to support you, your family and your community, so that you have the tools and resources to remain active whatever the situation.” #StayInWorkOut