This interview is part of our rapid review project, The New Normal: Delivering Your Services to Older People in 2021.
Life Leisure is a charity managing leisure and sport facilities in Stockport. Part of their community activities is planning and delivering physical activity sessions to older adults and vulnerable residents in Stockport, including working with local care homes. The ones aimed at older people include gentle exercise programme SMILE, targeted to older adults and delivered in community venues and in care homes, and I Wish I Tried which is a physical activity programme aimed at inactive adults, with a lot of older generation joining in, with activities such as walking football, tai chi and over 50s keep fit; PARIS, an activity referral programme, and Active Ageing programme, which is aimed at helping individuals age 55 and older who had experienced a significant life event, to help them to become more physically active.
We spoke to Active Communities Manager Ross McGuigan from Life Leisure in December 2020 to learn more about how they have adjusted their services during lockdown and continued to support physical activity for older adults.
How lockdown changed Life Leisure’s services
Life Leisure worked with Stockport Council and the NHS to created Stockport Moving Together, a Covid-19 physical activity recovery programme, to support inactive Stockport residents to get moving again. As part of this, Life Leisure supported local care homes to deliver physical activity sessions for their residents. This included video instructions and distributing activity packs to care homes, as well as ongoing support.
Through previous delivery of the SMILE scheme, Life Leisure had existing links to local care homes. Over time they’ve been able to support care homes to continue delivering physical activities, through virtual sessions and recordings of SMILE activity sessions. The aim of these was to bring the SMILE activities to care home staff for them to deliver as best to their ability to residents. To deliver this, Life Leisure also included support for the care home staff, many of whom might not be experienced delivering physical activities. Life Leisure have also worked in collaboration with other organisations to deliver support to vulnerable older adults, for example in the form of the activity packs.
Since November, both SMILE and I Wish I Tried have a virtual timetable of activities. Online delivery of the sessions will continue in the future too, meaning there will be a legacy from this time.
Learning from working in lockdown
Being a larger organisation had its benefits and challenges during the lockdowns. For a larger organisation, like Life Leisure, changing activities delivery and finding ways to continue them during lockdown conditions, including the changing health and safety advice, can be a challenge. Once the guidance was getting clearer, the existing infrastructure and networks around physical activity made it easier to implement the activities.
Linking up with other organisations to deliver activities is important, and linking up with the right organisations helps with this:
You need to bring the right people around the table, who have that appetite to support individuals from a physical activity perspective, promoting positively on the benefits.
A positive development during lockdown has been on how one of the key recommendations has been to go out to exercise.
You can find more about the physical activity programmes Life Leisure offer to older adults on their website.
You can read more about our project “The New Normal: Delivering your services to older people in 2021” here.
We want to hear from other activity providers. If you work or volunteer with an organisation that delivers activities to older people, you can fill our survey here.