North Yorkshire Sport have in recent years developed a physical activity offer for older people, offering both universal opportunities and targeted interventions in local communities. Two examples of these are:
Strong & Steady – A North Yorkshire wide programme funded by North Yorkshire County Council. Prior to Lockdown North Yorkshire Sport had been facilitating 20 Strong and Steady exercise classes per week supporting people over the age of 65 to be physically active. Classes were delivered in each district by qualified instructors on a 12 week cycle, reducing frailty and deconditioning with a focus on reducing isolation and improving the mental wellbeing of participants.
Escape Pain - a rehabilitation programme for people over 55 with chronic hip & knee joint pain (Osteoarthritis). This has been a targeted intervention delivered across Harrogate with plans to start in Scarborough & Ryedale in early 2020.
As a result of Lockdown, face to face classes were suspended in Spring 2020. North Yorkshire Sport quickly turned our attentions to keeping the older people we were supporting connected to physical activity and to us as a charity.
We moved swiftly to reassure the Strong & Steady / Escape Pain delivery network with continued financial support despite a pause in face-to-face activity. The workforce involved in these interventions were re-purposed and supported to make 1-2-1 wellbeing calls to provide advice and support to people aged 65+ to remain physically active and to those we knew would need it most. We established the participants with internet/IT access and signposted them to a range of online content suitable to their needs & conditions (While keeping a clear eye on individuals who were not able to access this content). We distributed regular updates to participants on national guidance, resources and sources of support including offering our staff resource to existing online older people groups & forums to help advocate the importance of being active in lockdown.
Where it was possible, we moved sessions online, for example we started to deliver the Escape Pain sessions online, having converted our existing meeting room @ North Yorkshire Sport HQ into a studio to deliver online activity (installing cameras/lights etc). We arranged an online Nordic Walking for Rehab course for our delivery partners and instructors. Orientated during lockdown to deliver 1:1 sessions or small group sessions when Covid restrictions allowed.
A key part of our initial response was to keep in touch and connected with those we knew would need it most. In order to ensure we could also support the most vulnerable people in our communities we diverted staff and resources to help develop a Universal+ programme with North Yorkshire County Council, which included the production and distribution of over 3000 Active @ Home Physical Activity packs. The packs were distributed through Community Support Organisations and Voluntary Sector partners who were ensuring people and families who were shielding were getting the support we needed. Making sure the resources go to those who needed them most and who would struggle to access existing online content was key.
Packs were put together for Families, Young People (teens) and for older people. For the older people packs resources included were Therabands (and an exercise booklet to help people use them), resources from Later Life with ways to exercise at home safely and with limited space & equipment. We also entered into a partnership with Rural Arts North Yorkshire to include arts materials so that the packs could help with both physical but also mental wellbeing.
The packs received great feedback from people as it enabled them to be active and use resources that otherwise they would not have been able to access.
As restrictions loosened, we turned our attentions to supporting our local delivery partners and instructors to restart face to face activity in small groups and in line with social distancing protocols. We continued to support older people forums to introduce or continue to provide physical activity in their online sessions. We also continued to ‘check in’ with people who were unable to attend sessions face to face sessions or unwilling to due to the continued risk of infection. Our welfare calls focused on encouraging them to start or continue to be active every day in whatever way they could.
On example of the difference North Yorkshire Sports work with older people is having is through ‘SC’, an 87 year old lady who had heard about one of our instructors Vicki through her work with Parkinson’s UK and our Strong and Steady programme.
Before lockdown ‘SC’ was a very busy person visiting two charities she was interested in. When lockdown began, she spent quite a lot of time in the garden but found that her muscles were beginning to take the strain. SC realised that the garden was not fulfilling her exercise requirements and that she needed to do some walking. She started to walk down the road but by this time her legs had lost the will to carry her and she found it difficult to get back home again. She realised that she needed help as not only were her legs and back being overtaxed by the garden, she felt as though her balance was going through a bad patch too, having had 2 falls in August.
After a telephone consultation, Vicki agreed to see SC on a weekly basis for an initial period of 8 weeks for an hour at a time. The focus of the sessions was improving balance, strength and confidence. Vicki also worked with SC on floor exercises as she was afraid she would get stuck if she fell outside and didn’t have anything to hold to help her get up.
After the initial 8 weeks, SC reports on her improvement:
“We are now in mid-October and I have found that seeing Vicki and doing specific exercises regularly has made a big difference to my legs and my whole body. She can be quite tough but that is what I needed. When I think I have done a particular exercise enough times she often says do another 10! I find it difficult to believe the difference to my whole mobility in a fairly short space of time and it has made such a difference to my aches and pains and especially to my balance. I have not fallen since August and I know I am putting into action the things I have been taught. She seems to be pleased with my efforts and I am also delighted with the change in my legs, in fact with my whole body in many ways. I have returned to getting the train to London for meetings and volunteering and although I still take a stick if I am going anywhere where I am walking on unfamiliar ground, it is just an insurance measure now .”