Stockport’s older generation is being encouraged to get active as part of a new scheme to help tackle loneliness and ill-health among the town’s ageing community.
There are immeasurable mental and physical health benefits to being active in old age. From helping to improve cognitive functioning and physical strength, to maintaining social interaction.
Despite this, Sport England, which runs 12 of the town’s fitness facilities, estimates that one in three Stockport residents aged over 55 are inactive.
Life Leisure, Stockport Council, Age UK and Stockport Homes have joined forces to tackle the issue and support inactive over 65s to become more active, introducing a 12-week mentor scheme so older adults can meet and learn from peers who have turned their own lives around through exercise.
The programme is particularly aimed at those who have experienced a significant life event, such as bereavement, a diagnosis of a chronic illness or becoming a carer, who would benefit both mentally and physically from getting active.
It is hoped that by introducing these residents to like-minded individuals, they too will be encouraged to make a lifestyle change.
Ross McGuigan, Active Ageing Lead, from Life Leisure, said: “It’s all about promoting a healthier lifestyle and the benefits of that. A lot of people think that once they reach a certain age it’s too late for them.
“We hope by introducing them to peers they can be encouraged to take the next step and take advantage of some of the many healthy opportunities on offer in a sustainable and supportive environment.
“It’s not about getting older people working out at the gym, it’s about encouraging them to look at what is available and try something new.
“Whether that’s an ‘easy’ exercise class like walking football, or something delivered by one of our partners, like walking or cycling.”
The scheme – which hopes to encourage 1,250 participants who are inactive to become active/partially active by 2020 – has been funded by £104,000 from Sport England, with match funding from the partners, totalling £216,200.
Residents who sign up to the 12-week programme will have access to an inclusive activity timetable and free activity passes.
Life Leisure already runs a number of initiatives to suit older adults, such as walking football and netball, and the PARiS scheme, which sees people with chronic illnesses attending fitness activities/sessions as an alternative to medical prescriptions.
Councillor Tom McGee, Stockport Council’s Cabinet Member for Health, said: “We know that being physically active is a great way for our older residents to stay independent, keep healthy and have fun.
“It was fantastic to hear the inspiring stories from residents who have already transformed their lives by participating in these programmes. I hope their experiences will inspire others to get active.
“Keeping our population active is a key plank in Stockport’s Ageing Well Strategy and as I am in that age group myself, I’m trying to up my activity levels too.”
Age UK Stockport are also looking for more volunteers who benefit from an active lifestyle to get involved.