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Hopes life-changing exercise programme could go viral

As people are living longer, mobility and exercise are even more important. These locals enjoy a walk along Waikanae Beach
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Exercise routines to strengthen the body against falls will be taking to YouTube thanks to an unexpected grant to Age Concern New Zealand.

Their Steady As You Go© programme has been life-changing for many participants and hopes are that many more people will participate when it is filmed and put on the internet.

The programme is based on the belief that falls are preventable and not just part of getting older.

Steady As You Go© teaches exercises to improve balance, leg strength, flexibility, spatial awareness, general fitness and well-being. More than 4000 people around New Zealand take part in local classes held every week in venues such as community centres and church halls.

Age Concern New Zealand has received a $10,000 grant from AA Insurance, which will pay for a videographer to create a professional series of exercise videos that can be used by older people who are unable to attend an in-person class.

Feeling extra pressure from Covid

The insurance company staff had nominated organisations that help those in need and were feeling additional pressure on their services because of Covid-19. They selected four to each receive $10,000. Hamilton’s The People Project, Auckland City Mission and KidsCan were the other recipients.

Covid-19 has put Age Concern New Zealand in the spotlight in 2020 because of their work co-ordinating support for older persons.

Age Concern New Zealand Chief Executive Stephanie Clare says they hope the video will be finished and on the internet in early 2021.

She says Steady As You Go© is a fun and social, strength and balance exercise programme for older adults.

“It’s a way to live better.”

While there is no lower age limit it is aimed at people who are most at risk of falls due to frailty.

Over 85s will double

Stephanie points out people are living longer and projections show the number of over 85s will double in the next few years.

The exercises are gentle, progressively increase balance and muscle mass, and are specifically designed for older people. The classes run for 60 minutes each week.

“It’s a nice way of getting the body up and going,” Stephanie says.

She adds that regular physical exercise also exercises the brain.

Stephanie says that if older people feel they are losing strength, their fear of falling increases and their confidence drops.

Social connections unexpected bonus

She says an unexpected bonus from the community classes is the social connection that participants develop.

They begin to share rides, have coffee afterwards and keep in touch during the week. It is quite common for participants to realise their paths have crossed in the past because they usually live in the same community.

University of Otago researchers found the Steady As You Go© classes improve physical function, reduce the risk of falls, are fun, provide an improved sense of well-being and confidence and provide links with other people in the neighbourhood.

The classes include advice on health and safety around the home, good nutrition and how to make self-referrals for outside help.

I was having trouble with basic housework before I started . . . and I don’t anymore,” is what one participant said.

 

Confidence returned

Another reported having fallen three times in the last two years, resulting in her feeling anxious about the possibility of another fall. After attending the classes for a few months, she managed to steady herself when she almost tripped over in her home, and her confidence returned.

One woman remembered how she carefully tested whether the pavement was icy during the winter months using the cautious foot placing method she learnt in her Steady As You Go© class.

Another reported how she managed to prevent a fall by regaining balance after tripping over a hose and almost falling forward.

Steady As You Go© participants at a 2018 class in Otago

“It gives you more awareness of your body – lifting your feet, how you walk, and a tiny squat to regain balance,” said another.

Other comments include:

“My legs are stronger so I can climb stairs more easily.”
“I am much quicker and more confident now.”
“I am having fun meeting new people.”
“The eye exercises have really improved my balance.”
“My body feels alive.”

Why is falls prevention important?

  • One in three people over 65 fall every year.
  • This ratio increases to one in two, for people over 85.
  • Approximately 4000 Kiwis fall and break a hip annually.
  • Falls are the most common cause of injury in older people.
  • The physical impacts of a fall can be very serious (hip fractures, head injuries, hospitalisation, early admission to residential care and, in some cases, death).
  • The psychological impacts of a fall can also be very serious (loss of confidence, fear and anxiety, PTSD, restriction of physical and social activities, increased frailty, psychological distress, isolation and depression).

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For more information:

Age Concern website 

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