They may be in their eighties but that isn’t stopping Russell and Shirley Fox from working up a sweat in a new AUT Active Aging Fitness programme being piloted at Metlifecare’s The Poynton village in Takapuna.
The Fox’s are residents at The Poynton, one of Metlifecare’s premium retirement villages, and are taking part in AUT University’s ‘never2old’ Active Aging fitness programme. In the pilot, 20 residents’ will undertake weekly hour-long circuit training sessions for a period of six months.
A growing body of evidence suggests that sensory, motor and integration functioning declines significantly with age, which leads to falls and fall-related injuries, the most serious of which are hip fractures.
Falls account for over 75% of hospital admissions in people aged 65 and over. These often lead to a loss of confidence and mobility afterwards, so it makes sense that seniors would be cautious about exercise. But does this natural decline in mobility mean that seniors should give up exercise altogether? Phillipa Batts, Operations Manager of ‘never2old’ Active Aging says no.
“If there is a reduction in the level of physical activity, particularly those involving weight bearing and agility, and increased frailty, the likelihood for falling increases,” says Batts. “There is strong evidence to indicate that many falls can be prevented. With correct nutrition and proper exercise, there is no reason that people cannot stay healthy and mobile – even increasing their muscle mass into old age.”
Benefits of exercise for seniors include reduced risk of premature mortality, injury from falls and lifestyle diseases such as cancers, heart disease and neurological disorders. There are also mental health benefits, and a sense of independence.
AUT has been running their ‘never2old’ programme since 2002 at the Sport & Fitness Centre at AUT’s North campus. However, the Metlifecare pilot is the first time they have delivered a programme tailored for residents in a Retirement Village setting. “We’re excited about the possibilities,” says Batts.
Residents are excited too, with The Poynton’s Village Manager, Craig Peploe, saying there was a great deal of applications to join the programme.
Weekly sessions at the The Poynton consist of supervised circuit style exercise stations designed to address cardiovascular fitness, strength and power, balance and flexibility, with a particular focus on falls prevention.
The residents were the driving force behind the introduction of the pilot programme at The Poynton, says Peploe. “We have a number of residents who were making the trek to AUT’s ‘never2old’ classes. Then a resident and retired physiotherapist suggested to us, let’s do one better, let’s hold the classes here.
“There are many barriers for participation in exercise programmes: time, accessibility to appropriate activities and support – both expert and social. For residents who want to be more physically active, the availability of a fun, well supervised exercise programme on site will make this easier.”
The group exercise programme started on the 30th September and is delivered in partnership with Metlifecare staff. The idea is that The Poynton staff nurses will learn from the AUT trainer, and if the programme is a success, Metlifecare will look at training staff across all villages and rolling out the programme nationwide.
The Poynton residents Russell (82) and Shirley (80) Fox both value their health and fitness, and used to go to ‘never2old’ classes at AUTs North campus. They both jumped at the chance to be part of the pilot programme. Russell says, “We used to enjoy the classes at AUT but ‘never2old’ at the village is better, it feels more tailored to us, for example we work more on balance rather than using gym equipment.”
It’s also more convenient for the couple. “It could be blowing a gale outside and we don’t care. We just pop down the hallway and there we are.”
Russell says he hopes doing the programme will help him to maintain his health and vitality as long as he can. “Thirty years ago I had cancer, “ he says, “Now I live for today.”
The Poynton residents involved in the pilot receive free blood pressure, height and weight checks, there’s no cost, no travel needed and free fitness assessments are done before, during and after the pilot.
“The programme is still in its early stages,” says Peploe, “But initial results look promising. We’ve had so many comments saying what fun it was. And after the first session, residents stood up and gave a round of applause. You can’t ask for better than that.”