Energetic residents cycle to Timbuktu as survey reveals over 65s want to exercise more

Middleton Hall resident Pat Webb takes up the cycle challenge
Middleton Hall resident Pat Webb takes up the cycle challenge

ACTIVE residents and staff at an award-winning retirement village have clocked up the fitness miles as new figures reveal that the majority of over 65s want to do more exercise but face a range of barriers.


Middleton Hall Retirement Village, near Darlington, held a fitness challenge leading up to a Wellbeing Weekend event with the aim of encouraging residents to walk, cycle, run or swim the 874 miles from Land’s End to John O’ Groats.


But the Middleton marvels took the challenge further and clocked up so many miles they achieved the original aim early. By the end of the challenge, the energetic retirees had covered the equivalent distance of Darlington to Timbuktu, in western Africa – more than 2,500 miles.


Bill and Dorothy Campbell take part in the Wellbeing Weekend
Bill and Dorothy Campbell take part in the Wellbeing Weekend

The Wellbeing Weekend was in keeping with the retirement village’s Living Well philosophy, which focuses on what residents can achieve rather than what they can’t. The event featured taster sessions in tai chi, aerobics and aqua aerobics, a table tennis competition and cycle challenge for staff and residents. There was a bicycle smoothie maker and the Photography Group exhibited their Living Well themed photographs.


The response to the challenge flew in the face of new research, commissioned by the Associated Retirement Community Operators (ARCO), the UK trade body for retirement villages and extra care housing. It revealed that the North East has one of the highest figures in the country for inactive older people. It found 41% of people aged 65 or older in the North East said they were ‘not very’ or ‘not at all’ active – far higher than the national average which was more than a third.


Of the 1,000 people surveyed, 20% in the North East said obstacles such as cost and lack of a companion put them off being more active. 24% of people in the NE say they would be more likely to go if they had a friend to go with them.


Jeremy Walford, managing director at Middleton Hall Retirement Village, said:


“While these figures are startling, our wellbeing event shows that older people are happy to be as active as possible if they’re given the opportunity and the right support.


“Many of our independent residents really enjoyed the challenge and the fact they managed to cycle, walk or swim so far shows how committed they are to achieving healthy, fitness goals.


“Good retirement villages can offer residents a healthy lifestyle and the individual support they need to improve their physical health.”


Middleton Hall resident Christine Wright, said:


‘We have time to go to the spa where we are given advice and encouragement. I for one am considerably fitter than I was two years ago – I know this because I can talk when going uphill!”


Michael Voges, executive director of ARCO, said: “Our research shows that age is not in itself a barrier to physical activity. Many over 65s would like to be more active, but struggle to maintain a healthy lifestyle due to barriers such as availability, cost and living alone. As the growth of over 65s is at record levels, the extent of the problem is only going to get bigger.


“For more older people to get active, we need to create the right opportunities and facilities for them, at the right price. However, our research has shown that we also need to think about the ‘soft factors’, such as a companionship and creating a welcoming, non-threatening atmosphere that can cater to an individual’s needs.”


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