A project to encourage people to become more active to reduce the risk of falls has been given its official launch.
Thirty per cent of people aged over 65 and half of those over 80 are at risk of falling at least once a year. As well as injuries, people who fall can suffer a loss of confidence and fear of falling again, loss of mobility, an increase in dependency, hypothermia, pressure-related injuries and infection.
More than 166,000 people in North Yorkshire reported doing less activity in 2015 than in the previous year, due to disability, injury or poor health. Nationally, physical inactivity is responsible for one in six deaths, which makes it as dangerous as smoking.
North Yorkshire County Council wants to support older people in the county in accessing existing opportunities for physical activity and providing new tailored exercise and activity where needed.
It has established Strong and Steady, a project given funding of £300,000 over three years by the County Council’s public health team and Stronger Communities programme and delivered by North Yorkshire Sport and REACT, the umbrella body for Age UK offices across North Yorkshire.
The main aim is to increase physical activity among people aged 65-plus to reduce falls, but through the use of trained instructors and partner organisations the classes are also expected to help to reduce loneliness and to improve mental wellbeing.
Sessions will provide information about related topics, such as healthy eating, winter warmth, exercise and how to prevent falls. The programme will be a mix of newly commissioned specialist classes and improving access to existing sessions, with people able to move between the two depending on their circumstances.
North Yorkshire Sport is currently setting up 15 commissioned specialist classes across the county and supporting providers to make existing community sessions more accessible. They will also support the establishment of new community sessions and will be helping attendees to take over and run the session themselves through training and support.
The first specialist classes started earlier this year and the official launch took place on Friday, 27 April, at a session at the Fairfax Community Centre in Harrogate.
Peter Smith, from Harrogate, who attends the class in the town, said: “The difference from when I started to now has been tremendous, absolutely amazing! I wouldn’t have thought it was possible! When the coach told me I was going to be lying on the floor and getting back up again I said ‘you’ve got to be joking’ but now I’m doing press-ups. The coaches make you believe in yourself and I’m so much more confident now.”
Another member of the class, Joyce Dinsdale, from Harrogate, said: “I was referred by my physio, who I see for MS. I used to struggle to walk in a line even for short distances and had no balance. Now I can do it much more easily, and have more confidence doing it.”
Strong and Steady instructor Vicki Iwanuschak added: “The aim is really to help people to get back to being able to do what they did before or thought they couldn’t do anymore. So they can get back on with their lives.”
People can be referred to classes by health professionals, including their GPs, physios, specialists or from other existing clinics or classes. People can also refer themselves and will be helped to find the most appropriate class for them.
County Councillor Caroline Dickinson, Executive Member for Public Health, said: “We know from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence that encouraging older people to be physically active can improve their independence and mental wellbeing as well as their physical health.”
County Councillor David Chance, Executive Member for Stronger Communities, added: “A key objective of our Stronger Communities programme is enabling people to live independently in their communities for as long as possible. Taking part in Strong and Steady will improve people’s mobility and improve their core strength, making them more likely to be able to join in social activities, so reducing the risk of loneliness and social isolation.”
Andrew Jones, MP for Harrogate and Knaresborough, attended the launch. He said: “It’s great to hear about the difference this class is making to people and to know that it will be replicated across North Yorkshire. I saw that this scheme is giving people the confidence and ability to do more than they believed possible, supporting both their independence and their wellbeing.”
David Watson, Chief Executive of North Yorkshire Sport, said: “Increased levels of physical activity are proven to help reduce falls and support people living independently and these classes will be a great way of supporting these increases. Perhaps just as importantly they will be fun and supportive and people will be able to take part at their own pace. It is great to see North Yorkshire County Council investing in this approach and we are excited to be rolling out the programme across the county in the coming weeks and months.”
More information about the project is available from North Yorkshire Sport on 01423 226303