Research commissioned by the UK trade body for retirement villages and extra care housing has revealed a majority of over 65s want to do more exercise, but face a range of practical and financial barriers.
The NHS guidelines for over 65s recommend around 2.5 hours of moderate exercise and muscle strengthening per week. However, the research revealed that over a third (1) of 1,000 respondents aged 65 or older identify themselves as ‘not very’ or ‘not at all’ active.
The survey highlighted a number of reasons why older people were not able to do more physical activity. Of those who were less active and wanted to be more active, nearly one in four (2) listed their reasons for not using nearby facilities as feeling self conscious in environments such as gyms often dominated by young people, with a further 22% stating the facilities don’t accommodate the needs of older people.
The cost of using fitness venues such as gyms and pools was a barrier for 29% of respondents.
Nearly a quarter of respondents said they would be more likely to attend a nearby gym facility or classes if they had someone to go with (3). These numbers increased to nearly one in three (4) in over 65s who live alone.
For those who live on their own, a similar number of over 65s also stated they would be more likely to attend if there were more older people there (25%) and if there were more classes offered for people of their age (23%).
There was a difference in how men and women viewed going alone, with 28% of women saying they would visit the gym if they had a friend go with them versus 17% of men.
Physical barriers also played a part, with over 37% of respondents reporting medical reasons or injury as the main thing stopping them from exercising more.
Staying physically active in later life is crucial to maintaining health and wellbeing, as one in three over 65s suffers from a fall each year, costing the NHS £4.6m per day (Age UK). Falls account for over half of accidental injury admissions to hospital, and can be prevented by up to 55% by doing basic strength and balance exercises.
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.
“This poses deeper questions as to how our ageing population is going to live in the future. Retirement communities such as extra care housing and retirement villages must be part of the answer, as they offer tailored wellbeing, health and fitness facilities. However, in the UK only around 0.5% of older people live in a retirement community, while in the US, New Zealand and Australia this figure stands at around 5%.”
Earlier in the year, research by Aston University found that health care costs for residents in extra care villages run by the ExtraCare Charitable Trust are reduced by 38%. It found that unplanned hospital visits fell from 8-14 days to 1-2 days after 12 months of living in an ExtraCare Charitable Trust village, and even routine GP visits were reduced by 46% thanks to on-site wellbeing services.
Angela Bradford, Commissioning and Healthy Lifestyles Director at ExtraCare Charitable Trust, said: “Our Charity’s health and wellbeing services are integrated into older people’s lifestyle aspirations and this means that they are living well for longer at a cost that is affordable for the individual and society.”
Retirement communities offer housing with care for the full spectrum of incomes, from affordable housing with on-site care to the luxury end of the market. Unlike in a care home, residents live in properties they own, part-own or rent, and have the option of accessing facilities such as gyms, craft rooms, libraries or restaurants. They can also participate in an active social programme, enabling them to live independently for as long as possible.