International Day of Older Persons: help get people moving more

30 September 2020

Professor Dawn Skelton is an exercise physiologist with a scientific research background. She is currently Professor of Ageing and Health at Glasgow Caledonian University, in 2015 received an Honorary Doctorate for Umea University in Sweden for her work with exercise and older people and in 2016 was honoured by the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy with an Hon FCSP.

The 1st October is the United Nations International Day of Older Persons. This is normally a socially interactive time for me, as I co-organise the Sporting Senior Games with Erskine Homes around this time of year to celebrate. This autumn is a little different! With COVID-19 and the threat of a second wave, all events with frailer older seniors have been cancelled. Since March, COVID-19 movement restrictions have not just stopped people being socially engaged, they have also led to huge declines in physical activity for all older people. The rehabilitation pandemic that will follow, or has perhaps already started, ensures therapy services will be fully occupied for some years! Few exercise rehabilitation services have restarted and those that have are mostly occupied with those who were in their services prior to lockdown. We have a duty of care to encourage and engage older people who remain in their residences, shielding from the virus, to sit less and move more. This will not only help maintain their physical and psychological health but help them maintain physical function and perhaps avoid escalation of care due to difficulties in maintaining independence.

Back at the beginning of lockdown, Later Life Training decided to support their trained instructors and therapists who would no longer be able to run group or individual sessions with their clients or patients by providing free and accessible ‘movement sessions’ throughout the day, that were safe for the full range of older people that might access them. We called this initiative ‘Make Movement Your Mission’ (#MMyM). The main aim was to help older people maintain (or increase) their light physical activity and focus on strength and balance activities they could do safely in their own homes.

Make Movement Your Mission

#MMYM went live on Facebook on 23rd March 2020 by offering 3 daily bite-sized ‘movement snacks’ (10-15 minutes) providing accurate information and messaging with a range of options designed so that something could be achievable for everyone. Six months on and #MMYM is still thriving and we have so many positive stories to tell.

With International Day of the Older Person looming, along with a second potential full lockdown, we thought what better way to celebrate than to cast out the movement snack net again?  Could you or your organisation play a part in increasing choices and empowering people to join in with ‘some or all’ or ‘whole or parts of’ our hourly movement snacks designed to increase additional movement minutes?.

I’m interested, what do I need to do?

The #MMYM team will be delivering a ‘movement snack’ every hour on Thursday 1st October starting at 8am and finishing with the final snack of the day at 4pm. Here’s just some ways to get involved:

  1. Get involved with just 2 minutes of each movement snack with our ‘Circulation Boosting Challenge’. Each one of our movement snacks starts with a circulation boost; 2 minutes of rhythmical upper and lower body movement designed to boost the circulation and promote active sitting or active standing posture in the process. Joining in with circulation boosts across all nine movement snacks accumulates 18 minutes of additional movement minutes by the end of the day – so opt to just join in the circulation boost or stay with us and continue on with the whole snack; it’s all about choices.
  2. In addition to the ‘Circulation Boost Challenge’, there is the option to stay on for a few more minutes for the ‘Extra Boost!’ – this involves 1, 2 or 3 extra ‘stand-ups & sit-downs’, or opt for the seated ‘posture booster’. The ‘Extra Boost!’ results in even more movement minutes PLUS a strength bonus. After the ‘Extra Boost!’ the MMYM team will continue with the remaining content of the snack, with a few more movements to choose from. Each snack will be slightly different throughout the day but always with standing and seated options. It’s all about offering choices and this is where you come in: could a facilitator from your organisation, for example, set up an HDMI cable to a TV, or provide a tablet for people to view? This may encourage and increase participation in a few extra movement minutes. We recommend that you don’t mention the ‘exercise word’. This is significant because everyone needs to move, and that’s all MMYM is about.
  3. Do you know someone, a relative or friend who, with a bit of help from you to set up a Facebook account, could enjoy participating in this event and add additional movement minutes to their day? Start having conversations now to find out.

Help older people stay active; be part of an online community that shares its successes, encourages virtual social engagement and improves physical literacy.

Join us when you can on the 1st of October, every hour from 8am – 4pm for additional movement minutes; everyone is welcome.

Email bex [at] laterlifetraining [dot] co [dot] uk (subject: ) (Bex Townley) to tell us how you got involved. Find us on our Make Movement Your Mission Facebook page. Our YouTube channel is available for those not on Facebook and houses previously recorded movement snacks, including ones specifically for use in care homes, specific seated snacks for people less able to stand and some short videos on improving continence with pelvic floor exercises.  


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