Updated: Sep 29, 2021
Ahead of the anticipated - A Collaboration for Health Ageing webinar, Stian Lavik, Chief Business Officer, Motitech shares his vision.
“I was in a wheelchair at one point, then I graduated to a walker. The next thing will be the marathon.” These words are coming from Jean, an 88 years young woman living in a care home in the South of England. Previously, the low levels of physical activity were severely limiting her life. But then, doing frequent cycling sessions motivated by videos of roads from near and far, her life has changed.
And her daughter confirms: “My mother was pretty much bed-ridden. To see her now, exercising daily like this is extraordinary”.
Inactivity, feeling lonely and disengaged is a rising challenge for many people, especially for many living in long term residential care. Not because we aren’t aware of the situation, but rather because of a lacking focus on facilitating physical activity, and too few systems ensuring it. And it has become increasingly challenging in recent times. As Charles Johnston, Executive Director of Property at Sport England puts it: “The benefits of physical activity for older people are considerable but often there are limited opportunities, especially for people living in care.”
Nationally, more and more governmental strategies, policies, and guidelines point to the importance of activity as a preventative measure for many unwanted conditions. The NHS Framework for Enhanced Health in Care Homes from March 2020, wants to “move away from traditional reactive models of care delivery towards proactive care that is centred on the needs of individual residents, their families and care home staff”. And from the NICE Quality Standard; “Mental Well-being for older people in care homes from 2017”: “Older people in care homes are offered opportunities during their day to participate in meaningful activity that promotes their health and mental wellbeing.” And on top of strong national incentives, the United Nations General Assembly declared 2021-2030 the “Decade of Healthy Ageing”.
The key to achieving sustainable change is motivation, independent of age and functional levels. At Motitech, we see the benefits from cycling in care homes, motivated by inspiring videos of roads and streets from familiar places or unexplored places around the world. Combining physical activity and reminiscence while interacting with fellow seniors, staff, and family by sharing stories and memories has been shown to give a deep and meaningful experience far beyond the physical benefits.
For Jean in the example above, the videos and sharing the experience made the difference for her as motivation to exercise. Having the ability to “visit” familiar places, or places she should never go to, makes it all the more interesting. The experience of being on a virtual cycling trip that taps into personal motivation gives inspiration, energy, and endurance to come back to the exercise bike the next day. And the day after. Combining reminiscence with the sensation of mastery and an increased social connectedness have shown a sustainable change for thousands of seniors.
Jean, and others who have found a key to unlock the secret of their motivation, should inspire us all to take action and build a culture for healthy ageing with a strong focus on reablement and habilitation rather than treatment and rehabilitation. We need to focus on abilities instead of disabilities – there is so much untapped potential with people living in long term residential care.