Trust Housing Association invited us to run healthy active ageing showcase events at 18 of their premises across Scotland. Thanks to funding from the Life Changes Trust we were pleased to be able to say yes. Doug Anthoney reports.
Number nine: Grapevine. Number two: do Kung-Fu.
These are just a couple of the ‘calls’ that can come up when Trust Housing Association’s older tenants play our Strength and Balance bingo game. It’s a fun way of getting everyone moving, and almost everyone can move: the activities we showcase are based on NHS exercises for older people, and there’s a seated option for most of them.
We focus on strength and balance because these are particularly important for long term health. If we don’t look after these aspects of physical health, our muscles will deteriorate gradually from age 35, and we’ll have lost a third of the bone density in our hips by age 80. The good news is that because bone and muscle are living tissue we can build them up, whatever age we are, by doing simple exercises on a regular basis.
Our showcase doesn’t just focus on the body. We also look at what everyone can do, whatever their age, to keep the brain healthy. A key message is that any concerns we have about changes in our thinking abilities are best shared with a doctor, sooner rather than later. Surveys have found that people are far more likely to see a doctor about physical aches and pains than they are for problems affecting thinking, memory or communication abilities. Yet many of the causes of such symptoms can be stabilised or even reversed. And if something that can’t be cured is responsible, such as dementia, then getting a diagnosis is an important step towards getting the support and treatment that can enable someone to live well with the condition.
It’s not possible to guarantee that someone will never get dementia, but there are things that we can all do to reduce the risk of dementia. Our showcase highlights these: from eating well to challenging ourselves to learn new things.
So far there’s been a lot of laughs in our showcase events with Trust residents: from Newton Stewart to Stornoway. We’re serious about our message, but that doesn’t mean that we take ourselves too seriously, and when learning is fun it’s more likely to stick.
Doug Anthoney is Training Programme Officer with Age Scotland’s Early Stage Dementia project.