Many older people want to see innovative and creative community projects to involve them, rather than isolate them, with young people. This is according to research from the University of Brighton which explored how older people and staff and students from the university could benefit from one another's expertise and experiences.
Now thanks to a partnership between the university, the local elderly community and Age Concern, issues facing older people such as poor health, safety, stereotypes of ageing and isolation are being addressed. The programme, Activity Buddies, sees each elderly participant allocated with a student activity buddy.
Activity Buddies is running three projects; the latest, Fitness for Health, sees physiotherapy students and older people taking part in exercise and activities while educating the elderly about healthy living. Activities vary from line dancing to boules to circuit training.
Third year physiotherapy student Sarah-Louise Ponting, 22, has been involved in the project from the outset: "We have organised various activities and ran workshops to give information about everything from eating well to osteoporosis."
"We've had nothing but good feedback from all of the participants. It's often a misconception that the elderly can't still exercise. A few of the participants thought that once you get to a certain age you should stop doing all exercise which is actually the worse thing you can do. This project shows that there are a whole range of activities for the elderly too."
It was the first time that 83-year-old Irma Poctor, who lives in a managed retirement flat in Eastbourne, had been involved in a project of this kind. "It's been remarkable," she said. "We've played outdoor games like croquet and boules, circuit training, learnt line dancing, all sorts of activities. The students, our activity buddies, have been wonderful and really helped us. What's also special is that everybody has also spoken out and contributed. If they did it again I would definitely volunteer."
The project has been a successful partnership with Eastbourne Age Concern. Sonia Lewer, Active Age Manager at Age Concern in Eastbourne, said: "This is the first time Age Concern and the university worked together and judging by the feedback so far it has been an overwhelming success. What's wonderful about this project is that the elderly are active participants rather than just being talked at! It's through activities like these that we are breaking down stereotypical images of the elderly and educating the young about the issues elderly face."
The next session, Dispensing with the Mystery, will give students the opportunity to advise older people about their prescribed medication in a non-clinical setting.
Contact: Marketing and Communications, University of Brighton, 01273 643022