Care Community Blog: Active Life, Active Mind (ALAM)

Kay visits ALAM - an initiative set up by York St John University to encourage older people to use the university facilities

Staying fit and active in older age is important. However, going to a gym can be daunting if you haven’t participated in any sports or fitness activities for a while. York St. John University sports department understand this and have set up ALAM to encourage older people to use their facilities as part of their YSJActive Together community programme.

Three ladies who come to the Home Instead Companionship Café at Dean’s Garden Centre recommended I try out an ALAM session to see for myself. Bobbie, Sandy and Pat started coming to ALAM when they were caring for their husbands. Now they are widows, but they continue to attend regularly because they enjoy the activities and the companionship.

Sessions are held at the York St John University sports centre on Haxby Road.  Parking is free and there was plenty of space when I arrived. You need to type your car registration number on a touch pad on the reception desk, and staff will help with that if necessary.

Participants gathered at reception and chatted before the session started. There were ten of us altogether – two gentlemen and eight ladies. Everyone was dressed in comfortable clothes and shoes. No Lycra leggings or crop-tops in sight!

Grace, the group leader, welcomed us and took us to the gym. The first task for the group was to choose the music to play during the session. I was delighted that they chose ABBA and Elton John rather than the repetitive workout music you often hear in gyms.

Once we had got our muscles moving with a gentle warm-up, Grace ran through the different exercises available. There were four exercise bikes, some weights, chairs for seated exercises, steps for exercising the calf muscles, a track for walking or jogging and a therapy band for arm exercises.

Participants chose for themselves which exercises to do, and for how long. Grace was able to adapt exercises to individual needs, and she provided alternative equipment as needed. Bobbie is particularly fit and strong and chose to alternate the free weights with gentle jogging on the track, while others chose the chair-based exercises to maintain functional fitness – vital for independent living. Sandy had some exercises recommended by physiotherapist, and she was able to do them during the session. So much more fun than doing exercises alone at home!

The session ran for 45 minutes. The last ten minutes of the session were spent back in the circle, throwing and catching a ball. The idea was to improve reaction time and hand-eye coordination. I hadn’t played any ball games for years, and I must admit I felt a little anxious whenever I was the one who dropped it! I needn’t have worried. The group were so friendly and supportive it really didn’t matter. It just added to the fun.

After the session most of the group made their way up to the café on the first floor, via the lift or the stairs. The social aspect of the group was clearly just as important as the physical activity. Grace told me that this particular group had been together for several years and knew each other well. She was hoping to be able to set up additional groups in the future so that more people could benefit from the exercise and friendship.

ALAM runs on Tuesday mornings, 10.30 – 11.15. For more details phone Grace on 01904 876320 or email [email protected]

For more details about community activities at York St John University, search online for YSJActive Together.

Home Instead Companionship Cafes:

York Theatre Royal, first Monday in every month, 10.30 – 12.00 more information here

Deans Garden Centre, second Monday in every month, 10.00 – 11.30 more information here