Almost one in five of us living in the UK today will reach our 100th birthday, according to government projections. Adopting a healthier lifestyle will help improve the quality of our later years. Staying physically and mentally active, eating well, managing stress and paying attention to your health (including knowing when to take concerns to your doctor) are all important.
Activity ideas – exercise, leisure and social
Join a choir: ‘Goldies’ Golden-Oldies Choirs are singing sessions aimed at older people. A study by the University of Bath showed that participants reported greatly increased wellbeing and health. There are several weekly sessions that take place in the B&NES area. See www.golden-oldies.org.uk or ring 01761 470006 for info. There are other non-auditioning choirs but subscriptions may be payable.
Full of Life: Age UK B&NES runs walking groups, tai chi classes, wii fit sessions, walking football, dance & movement sessions and more – all low cost and aimed at pensioners. See www.ageuk.org.uk/bathandnortheastsomerset/ or call on 01225 484510.
Start dancing: There are many dance opportunities including Barn Dances/Ceilidhs with callers (call Richard or Jo on 01225 311634); Ballroom Dancing and Line Dancing at the Pavilion (www.bathpavilion.org or call 01225 486902); and Dance sessions run by Age UK B&NES (as above) amongst others.
Like being outdoors? You could join a local gardening club; take up croquet (Bath Croquet Club Tel: 01225 837615); try lawn bowls (there are several clubs in B&NES and two indoor greens at the Bath Sports & Leisure Centre); or play golf; or health walks (see below). If you’re feeling energetic, there’s cycling, running, tennis and much more.eachers.
Practise Tai chi / Yoga / Qigong: These can be particularly helpful for increasing balance and flexibility, as well as improving general wellbeing and reducing stress. Age Concern Bath runs low-cost local classes for seniors (see ‘Fit as a Fiddle’ above). You can also view the directory section of this website for more information on other local teachers.
Sociable group activities: Both BanesAgeUK and St John's Hospital (www.stjohnsbath.org.uk) run monthly programmes covering a wide range of activities that are either free or low cost. St John's events include daily exercise classes, minibus trips, book and craft groups and more.
Talks: Learn more, share your knowledge, meet like-minded people. Victoria Art Gallery provides art talks, the BRSLI (Bath Royal Literary & Scientific Institution) has an extensive programme, as does the U3A. Other groups include Townwomen’s Guilds and many others. There’s plenty to do in this region.
University of the Third Age in Bath: www.u3ainbath.org.uk – with ‘nearly a hundred different study, creative or leisure interest groups meeting regularly’ as well as talks and outings. .
Volunteering: Bath’s volunteer centre – www.vol-centre.org.uk – has hundreds of local volunteering opportunities. Hugely rewarding and sociable.
Walking: From free health walks (see ‘Get Active’ and Age UK information above) to walking with friends or with the Ramblers Assocation (www.bathra.org.uk or call 01225 858047) or Bath Rambling Club (www.ramblingclub.co.uk; tel. 01225 867454).
Finding help to get active
B&NES’s Sports and Active Leisure Team have various initiatives to help people increase their activity levels for better health. The ‘Passport to Health’ is a GP-referral scheme for “sedentary individuals who also also present with one or more other health related risk factor(s)”. ‘Community Activators’ are exercise professionals who can offer free programmes on a one-to-one basis. The ‘Walking to Health’ initiative is also free to participants. You can find out more about what is available by ringing the Sport and Active Leisure Team on 01225 369429 or visit their site at www.bathnes.gov.uk/getactive.
Types of exercise
To get the benefits of physical activity, it is important to incorporate all four types of exercise in your weekly programme: endurance, strength, balance and flexibility.
1. Endurance exercises include walking, jogging, swimming, dancing, tennis etc – any activity which increases your heart rate and improves lung function. Weightbearing exercise also helps build health bones, preventing osteoporosis. This type of activity should be built up slowly to at least 30 minutes three times a week.
2. Strength exercises help keep muscles working properly, so you can still carry your shopping, stand up straight or get up from a chair. Also, weight-lifting is another good type of bone-building exercise.
3. Balance exercises are very important for the over 65s as falls increase greatly in this age group and can lead to serious injury, curtailing independence. Some of these can be done easily at home, eg standing on one foot at a time for a few minutes. Activities such as yoga and tai chi can also help.
4. Flexibility exercises are based on stretching. You can do these at home or in a class. Again, yoga, tai chi and qigong can be very helpful.
Scientists have discovered that the brain remains able to acquire new information and to create new pathways – ‘neuroplasticity’ – all through our lives. It is our desire to learn that wans, not the ability. So age is absolutely no excuse for not taking that computer course, or learning a language / chess / bridge, or taking up a new hobby, or starting a new business, or mastering suduko – or whatever you wish.
Emotional & mental wellbeing
Depression and anxiety can increase if you are feeling isolated. Feeling lonely can impact negatively on mental health. See your GP if experiencing problems. Keeping active, joining in with social groups, inviting friends to meet up (eg a weekly lunch club or a book club), and volunteering can all help.
For additional help, here are some local resources:
Cruse (Bereavement Care) – helpful support groups; call 01761 417250 or see www.crusebereavementcare.org.uk
Befriending services are available from Age Concern B&NES (01225 466135; www.acbanes.co.uk and Bath Mind (01225 464656; www.bathmind.org,uk)
RICE (Research Institute for the Care of Older People) – run memory assessment clinics in Bath; call 01225 476420 or see www.rice.org.uk
A short selection of websites with resources aimed specifically at the over 60s:
- www.wellaware.org.uk – database of a wide range local health, wellbeing and community services and resources.
- Bath & North East Somerset Council – you can download a pdf of ‘Directory of Services for Older People’ from here.
- www.acbanes.co.uk – site for Age Concern Bath & North East Somerset which supports older people, their families and carers. Their ‘Fit as a Fiddle’ programme can be downloaded here.
- www.ageuk.org.uk – Age UK national site (new name for Age Concern & Help the Aged) with good information about medical issues, NHS services, keeping active, helpline numbers etc.
- www.nhs.uk – as well as explanations about various health conditions, the ‘Livewell’ section has information about health, nutrition etc for different age groups, including over 60s.
- www.saga.co.uk/health – health pages with lots of information, including good healthy recipes and more.
- Mind (mental health charity) – click here for information about older people and mental health