Stepping up the Health Game

A groundbreaking holistic wellbeing programme is inspiring older adults to step forward in a healthy direction

If someone challenged you to walk to Toronto, Canada as one of your exercise goals would you be brave enough to take up the gauntlet? Thirty Devonshire retirees did exactly this when they embraced an opportunity to join a pilot initiative between their later living homes provider Inspired Villages, not-for-profit health body ukactive and digital wellness experts, hero and Oomph! The aim: to dramatically improve the physical, social and mental wellbeing of Inspired residents around the UK.

Averaging of 8,109 steps a day each, the team collectively clocked up more than seven million steps in the space of just six weeks – a combined distance of over 3,500 miles or the equivalent of walking to Toronto.

“The initiative has transformed our approach to mobility and subsequently improved our quality of life. We’ve both averaged more than 10,000 steps a day,” said Nigel Epps, a Millbrook Village resident who took part in the scheme with his wife Pauline.

The Epps and fellow Millbrook Village residents all wore Fitbit trackers to measure their progress. Veronica and George Pert found the hero digital platform beneficial because it meant they could compete and compare, motivating them to achieve more. Participants trackers recorded double the 3,000 and 4,000 steps a day (Source: NHS) that the average Briton walks.

“There’s no doubt we’re doing more exercise because we’re being measured and can compete against each other, which is a huge driver,” said Veronica.

The importance of older people maintaining ‘meaningful engagement’ (accessed through social, creative or physical activity, or through employment or connecting with a community group) with the world around them has been highlighted in Age UK research (Index of Wellbeing in Later Life).

This holistic wellbeing approach is at the forefront of the initiative and, prior to launching, hero carried out a digital ‘wellness survey’ of Inspired Villages’ residents to understand the needs, wants and issues facing the community.

“Our role has been to encourage and educate residents in a bid to proactively manage all aspects of health and wellness,” said Joe Gaunt, hero’s founder and CEO about the project. “We’ve also provided support to the busy schedule of community events such as nutrition-led cookery classes and group fitness sessions. It’s an incredibly exciting project and the results really do speak for themselves. Using the hero platform enabled this trial to be about more than just activity but also promoting connected communities, enhancing wellness and mindfulness.”

Inspired Villages and its partners believe that discovering the benefits of physical activity will improve the overall quality of life for residents. This in turn can help to reduce loneliness and isolation, which are recognised as growing challenges by the UK government. According to a ukactive report entitled Reimagining Ageing, a whopping £7.67 billion of NHS and healthcare savings could be achieved if one-third of inactive over-55s were supported to be physically active over the next ten years.

ukactive will be providing independent research and evaluation throughout the pilot to demonstrate how the trial influences changes in the health and wellbeing of Inspired residents over the course of a year. The organisation’s CEO Steven Ward said it could help to change the way we look at later life: “Increasing our daily physical activity at any stage of life can have a huge impact on our health and happiness,” he added.

Meanwhile, Oomph! – a leader in wellbeing that changes the impact of ageing for adults – will provide exercise classes, creative activities and days out for Inspired Villages’ residents taking part in the scheme.

Commenting on the programme ethos, Director of Inspired Villages Jamie Bunce said: “Health and wellbeing are embedded in our culture, which is why we’re committed to helping our residents to live happy, healthy and active lives.