Just think of all the age groups that are able to benefit from and bond through sport. Many of us benefit socially and physically through sport from toddler age – it goes right through the school ages, into young adulthood and then middle age and beyond. One age group that is often notably absent from sporting activity, however, is pension age adults – but a new scheme funded by Sport England will bring sport to care homes, day centres and other community care providers.

Introducing Oomph! Wellness

Oomph! Wellness provide activities as part of their weekly care sessions to encourage older adults to get active and tackle increasing levels of isolation and inactivity.

A new £1m grant from Sport England has enabled Oomph! Wellness to work with national sporting bodies in volleyball, boccia (wheelchair bowls), weightlifting and orienteering to adapt those sports for older people. It aims to reach 27,000 older adults over the next two years.

Inactivity can be attributed to a lack of opportunity

Research carried out by NHS England revealed older adults at risk of falls should undertake exercise at least twice a week in order to improve balance and coordination. Regular physical activity has been found to prevent and manage more than 20 chronic conditions, including dementia (30% reduction), type 2 diabetes (40%), depression (30%) and hip fractures (68%). Previous studies have found that women over the age of 80 who exercise are less likely to fall.

Despite this, government figures show that 63.5% of adults over the age of 85 reported being physically inactive – classed as doing less than 30 minutes of physical activity a week – in 2015-16. By the age of 75, only one in 10 men and one in 20 women in the UK are active enough for good health. These numbers are not surprising, due to the obvious decline in our mobility, eyesight and energy levels as we get older. However, some of that can be attributed simply to a lack of opportunity, and in bringing activities to older people it is believed many will engage and benefit.

The physical benefits – even after just an hour’s session – are clear, but such group activities also have a hugely beneficial impact in combating loneliness. Age UK has found that nearly half of all people aged 75 and over live alone, and a million older people say they always or often feel lonely.

You have to adapt the exercises because you want everyone to be included, but it’s also about [building up their]confidence. One of the ladies was struggling with the movement, but by the end she’d got it. That’s the benefit a lot of people miss – someone’s not in their flat, they’re out with a group. They might be a bit shy or a bit reluctant initially, but as they warm up they come out of their shell… there’s always a hidden bit of competitiveness.Oomph instructor Robin Osborn

Older adults who’ve taken part in Oomph! sessions saw a significant impact on their mental stimulation, physical mobility and levels of social interaction.

Improvements in gait, walking speeds and improvements in fall efficacy are all expected to emerge, and if engagement is able to be increased, significant health improvements should arise.

To find out more about Oomph! Wellness, check out their website.

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