New report on physical activity levels in older people

New report from Active Oxfordshire & Age UK Oxfordshire

New report highlights the critical importance of boosting activity levels in Oxfordshire's older population

Active Oxfordshire, working in partnership with Age UK Oxfordshire is proud to present a new report which offers crucial insight into older people's activity levels across our county. The report was funded by Oxfordshire County Council and produced by Press Red. Read the full report below.

The Living Longer, Better report comes at a crucial time. We want to create a county where it becomes the norm to see people being active as they get older – not just aged 50 and 60, but at 70 and 80 too. Too many people see ageing as an inevitable time of physical decline where that decline needs to be managed by taking it easy, so as not to make things worse. In fact, the opposite is true. Ageing itself is rarely a problem until we reach our nineties, and the majority of health conditions we experience as we age are preventable. Even once we have them, the best course of action is to mobilise ourselves and manage the disease by adopting an active lifestyle.

At Active Oxfordshire's recent Leadership Summit, Sir Muir Gray challenged us all to rethink the process of getting older (renaissance not retirement!) and encouraged everyone to "every year, do more and every diagnosis, do more" so that we can stay active and live longer, better.

What's emerging very clearly now from the science is that we can prevent or delay dementia, frailty and the need for social care

Sir Muir Gray CBE

What's the local picture?

Oxfordshire's older people's physical activity behaviour

  • As we age, we become less active. Half of our inactive adults are aged 55 and over
  • Half of all people aged 75 and over are inactive, which is worse than national averages
  • Proportions of inactivity rise sharply between the age groups of 55-74 and 75+
  • 32% of those aged 75 and over, do no physical activity at all
  • Poor health does not affect us all equally. Oxfordshire's least well-off die younger and get sicker earlier than their wealthy peers with up to a 20-year difference in healthy life expectancy between these two groups.

The benefits of physical activity for older people

  • Any amount of physical activity will produce health gains for older people.
  • Being active daily will significantly increase those gains
  • Older people living with a long-term health condition are 2 ½ times as likely to be inactive
  • Many problems typically linked to ageing are actually due to disease, loss of fitness, and negative beliefs and attitudes about growing older

What's preventing older people from getting active?

  • Walking in bad weather or in the dark
  • The Winter months are a particularly high-risk time for increased sedentary levels.
  • The mindset of being too old, too slow, too frail hinders many from even thinking about being active, and increasingly impacts upon confidence to join in things.
  • Many older people don't ask for help, and the result is no-one to go with and a lack of confidence to go it alone.
  • For motivated people, being able to find a suitable community-based activity for physical activity can be a challenge.
  • Isolation and lack of transport opportunities

There is a wide range of initiatives taking place to break down these barriers, including community buses, extensive schemes run by Age UK Oxfordshire including Generation Games, exercise DVDs and home exercises, Good Neighbourhood Schemes, lift shares and many more. Working together with partners to expand these initiatives will be more important than ever.

Paul Brivio, Chief Executive of Active Oxfordshire welcomed the report:

"This report shows us why we need to change the way society operates to ensure we all live longer better. We must create a society that values its older people, promotes their worth, enables them to be independent and provides community- based support and warmth in the process.

At Active Oxfordshire we believe physical activity is at the heart of this new way of thinking as we move to a focus on prevention rather than cure. To be active means that people need access to good transport, to feel safe, to be motivated and enjoy easily accessible indoor and outdoor spaces. That is why we need a new sense of purpose and a set of integrated and connected interventions centred on the individual as part of a local community."

This report is an invaluable road map for organisations across Oxfordshire working tirelessly to boost activity levels in older people. Now is the time for us all to get this right. Every policy and funding decision, every interaction with older people should lead us to the future we want: a society where every older person can thrive. Let's work together to redesign our systems so that they work for all of us.