I attended Age Scotland’s ‘Ending Isolation Through Design’ event to hear how our built environment (buildings; roads & pavements) can contribute to older people becoming isolated.
It came as no great surprise that researchers have identified getting out regularly as one of the key factors in an older person maintaining a good quality of life. Equally we all understand the benefits of regular exercise. But I was surprised to hear that participants in a study aged 65 to 95 rejuvenated on average 20 years of lost strength after exercising moderately for just three months. And that just a 1% increase in physical activity amongst older people could save the NHS £8.5m.
So what are the barriers to older people going outdoors and getting that exercise? Amongst the greatest concerns are failing eyesight and balance; uneven footpaths; fear of falling; not being able to cross roads safely & lack of appropriate seating to rest on.
So what can we do?
Help by encouraging and supporting an older to person to get out every day for a short walk. We will certainly be redoubling our efforts to do this with all our clients.
Help make the environment safer for older people. Using Age Scotland’s ‘Walk in our Shoes, Act on our Issues’ toolkit you can highlight to local councillors where the main issues in the built environment are and ask them to do something about them. We are planning to do this in Portobello using an inter-generational approach; encouraging younger members of the community to speak to older people about the problems they perceive, and then use their mobile phones to photograph and video evidence to present to the politicians.
With just a little effort we can all make a difference!