On average, people now live around one-third of their lives after the age of retirement. There’s so much to look forward to; time spent with family, travelling abroad, or on hobbies that have previously had to play second fiddle to a career.
But, due to deteriorating health or social isolation, the over 65 age group also currently spends an average of 10 waking hours each day either sitting or lying down. Such a sedentary lifestyle has been found to increase a person’s risk of developing depression and a number of age-related degenerative conditions.
Keeping older people active and socially engaged can be more complex than with younger age groups, but these inspirational examples prove that there are plenty of options out there.
‘The Curtain Up Players’ theatre group
Originally founded as an over 50s theatre group in Huddersfield, The Curtain Up Players troupe has grown to become a popular local initiative.
The group regularly performs to a discerning older audience at community centres, village halls and lunch clubs across the region. The group forgoes the usual script and stage directions, instead preferring to let each member develop an individual, improvised character within loose plot guidelines. This helps to keep the actors mentally agile and lets them engage in an imaginative array of social interactions.
Meeting for a couple of hours each week, most recently the group has been rehearsing piece set in post-war 1945. Such a nostalgic plotline works to stimulate the memory of older people with cognitive conditions such as dementia. The play also takes place in amongst the audience, helping them to feel like part of the experience.
Musical memory groups for people with dementia
Singing is one of the first functions we develop as a baby, and one of the last that we lose as an adult – even in dementia patients.
Both music and emotions are processed in the same area of the brain, which explains why signing has the capacity to enhance feelings of recollection and nostalgia. Music can help to hold attention, and enables people with dementia to break up sensory stimulae into manageable chunks. In the same way that children use rhymes to remember their times tables, so too can older people use rhythm to unlock patterns of memory that had been blocked off by their condition.
Music also has many beneficial physical effects, acting as a sensory timer that helps to control co-ordination and muscle functionality. This helps people with dementia to stay more active, improving breathing regulation, heart-rate and overall mood. Social interaction is another positive aspect of such classes, enabling people with dementia to interact on common topics in a non-patronising way.
Singing groups for people with dementia are now available right across the UK, usually conducted by trained volunteers at no cost to the participant. There are many notable groups to call on, including Come Singing!, Singing for the Brain, Music for Life, Lost Chord, Golden Oldies and Live Music Now.
Pickleball: the new sport for older people
Pickleball is a new, low-impact sport developed to help keep older people active. Conceived in the US, the sport has been gaining popularity in the UK as a competitive activity in which you can win trophies whether you’re 18 or 85.
The sport has nothing to do with a briny vegetable – it’s named after the inventor’s family dog and combines elements of table tennis, badminton and regular tennis. The game area is just a quarter of the size of a tennis court, and participants can play doubles to reduce the space further. The racquets are similar to light and highly visible table tennis paddles, but enlarged for ease of use. While there is an element of friendly competition, the onus is on social interaction and mutual encouragement.
With the popularity of Pickleball increasing each day, it won’t be long until this is another option to help stay active in your area.
Oomph! exercise and activity classes
Oomph! combines elements of singing, dance and exercise to create a fun, participative programme for older people in the community. A UK-wide initiative co-designed with older people using the latest research, Oomph! uses nostalgic imagery and props to take people back to their own golden age.
The holistic approach of this programme helps with a whole host of factors, including:
- Exercise: enhances circulation and builds muscle strength
- Singing: oxygenates blood and aids memory
- Dance: improves dexterity, balance and grip strength
All this is carried out in a vibrant social environment that helps to stave off feelings of isolation, depression and loneliness.
At The Good Care Group, we work tirelessly to keep up to date with the latest and most enjoyable ways to keep older people active and socially engaged. Find out how our expert carers can help your loved-one achieve independence and dignity in the home environment, with entertaining initiatives that can enhance both their physical and cognitive health.