Online training for older people amid coronavirus crisis

Later life training guru and Professor of Ageing and Health Dawn Skelton is on a mission to help older people cope in the Coronavirus crisis and improve their lives with new live online movement sessions.

Almost 2,000 people from all over the world have already signed up to take part in the research-based Make Movement your Mission for 10-minutes three times per day for 30 days on Facebook and YouTube interactive platforms.

It’s not only older people who are getting involved in the free classes from the US, Canada and across Europe, but younger people who are physically restricted are getting in on the act, too, and enjoying every minute of it.

Professor Skelton, who is a world-renowned ageing-well researcher and also director of not-for-profit organisation Later Life Training in collaboration with GCU, has been blown away by the response to the new online channel and the support it’s had from a host of professional bodies.

She said: “This is not a home exercise programme – the whole point is to change behaviour of those currently stuck at home. It’s about just getting people to move more regularly throughout the day. It’s based on years of research.

“We are getting lots of people who would normally go to exercise classes for older adults signing up, but we also have loads of people who have joined who’ve never done any form of exercise before getting involved.

“We’ve only just launched it and the feedback we are getting from those taking part, and professional bodies such as the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy encouraging all their physios to recommend it, has been phenomenal. We’ve been getting lots of support on Twitter from all over the world.

“In the next few days, Public Health England will be also be endorsing Make Movement your Mission across its networks in an attempt to reduce the potential deconditioning that will likely increase the risk of falls and dependence in those self-isolating at home.

“We’ve also had great endorsement from leisure trusts across the UK and they’ve got it up on their websites recommending people go there. We’ve had amazing support from people all over the world – from the US, Canada, all across Europe, including Greece and Hungary.”

Professor Skelton said the classes could be extended beyond April 20 if the Coronavirus lockdown continues. The sessions help people change their movement patterns throughout the day and are led by Rebecca Townley, also a director of Later Life Training, with interaction in the comments from Professor Skelton bringing in key facts to help boost motivation and answer queries.

She added: “It’s not a home exercise programme. It’s about concentrating on your movement, style and pattern and trying to integrate movement into your daily life. Bex has a wonderful relaxed manner and offers options for different levels of ability. Many are already seeing benefits like reduced neck and back soreness and are enjoying the routine of seeing the community online three times a day.

“It’s about breaking up long periods of sitting and within that we are giving people some actual movements. Every time you stand to do your washing up or answer the phone, why not do two or three sit-to-stands rather than just one. Regularly mobilising your back, ankles and shoulders will help reduce tension and get the blood flowing to those stiff muscles. Our research at GCU on the physical and mental effects of prolonged sitting is clear, we benefit hugely from moving about regularly.

“There is live interaction to the comments during the 10-minute sessions and I give behavioural prompts and motivating tips based on years of research. For example, GCU has shown that if you add 10 sit-to-stands a day over a 10-week period you improve lower limb function.

“Facebook automatically saves it, so, if you miss the slots, you can flick down the page and watch it. For those who are not on Facebook we’ve put it on YouTube. It’s a great free resource, especially just now when we’re all stuck indoors. I would encourage those of you that can visit vulnerable older relatives to set this up on a tablet or computer for them so they can take part.”

The three times per day, 10-minute live Facebook Make Movement your Mission, can be found here (free to download and print). The Facebook site is here (or search for Make Movement your Mission) and for those who can’t join live or are not on Facebook – they can be viewed afterwards on YouTube.

The iCAN Calendar, originally sold in aid of a local charity in Paisley, ROAR Connections for Life, with the movements that are shared with everyone, has been translated into Greek and is in the process of translation into Portuguese and Spanish, so others around the world can take part. Some of the instructors trained by Professor Skelton and Rebecca in the EU Funded project ProFouND (prevention of falls) are setting up their own online versions of the Make Movement your Mission.

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