Getting active makes older Londoners healthier & happier

13 December 2016

The lives of older Londoners can be transformed by getting active in their local communities, a City Hall report has found.

More than 700 people in 22 boroughs took part in the Mayor of London’s Get Moving scheme, aimed at improving the health and wellbeing of older Londoners. The pilot project funded 16 community organisations to run free physical, social and creative activities, particularly targeted at more isolated groups of older people.

A report on the five-month scheme, published today, found that those taking part experienced less day-to-day pain as a result of regular activity, and an increase in their ability to do everyday tasks such as housework. Older Londoners also reported that learning new skills improved their confidence and mental wellbeing, as well as their physical stamina. By far the greatest benefit was reduced social isolation, with people making new friends and feeling engaged with their communities.

The Mayor has made clear that improving social integration in London was one of his core priorities. More than a third of older Londoners live alone*, and experience more social isolation than those in other parts of the UK**. The Get Moving activities, including tai chi, yoga, gardening, singing, photography and crafts, provided a chance to develop social connections with people of different ages and backgrounds, including younger volunteers. The programme, supported by pain relief brand Voltarol, also gave participating organisations the chance to build new relationships within the public, health, voluntary and cultural sectors.

Today, Matthew Ryder, Deputy Mayor for Social Integration, Social Mobility and Community Engagement, visited Meet Me at the Albany, a pioneering programme for isolated older Londoners. The Get Moving pilot provided funding for the programme to be taken into four London care homes. Based at South East London’s Albany arts centre and co-delivered by Entelechy Arts, the weekly club offers singing, dance and creative activities led by professional artists.

Matthew Ryder said: “The diversity of London’s communities is what makes them so special, with people from all walks of life living side by side. The Get Moving project has shown that social integration is broader than race and religion, and that bringing older people together with Londoners of different ages and backgrounds in a stimulating, positive environment hugely improves their connections to the community. Whether it’s dancing, gardening or tai chi, taking part in regular physical or creative activity makes a massive difference to the health and mental well-being of older people, and I urge more organisations across the capital to partner up to support older Londoners.”

City Hall will now build on the success of the Get Moving pilot, working with health and social care providers, local authorities, community organisations and arts and leisure providers to develop local opportunities for older Londoners to get active. Organisations will use the report’s findings to develop programmes that actively involve older people as both leaders and volunteers, and create ways for different generations to connect.

Daisy, a member of Meet Me at the Albany, said: “Instead of staying at home watching television I thought I’d get out, get on a bus, and see what was happening. There was so much going on. I love singing so I joined the choir, and there’s also a knitting group and a drama group. My children saw me perform in the Albany theatre and said we sounded really young when we sang. When you sit at home doing nothing indoors, you feel very low. But when you come here you feel happy. Talking to other people, seeing them, watching what they are doing – it’s good for your health. It makes you feel so much better.”

Cynthia, who participated in Art in the Park, a gardening activity in Southwark, said: “The activity has been great. If I wasn’t doing this, I would just be stuck indoors looking out the window".

David Slater, Artistic Director of Entelechy Arts said: “We are all living longer. Last year there were half a million people aged 90 and over living in the UK. Medical science given us more time but often these additional years are spent in loneliness and isolation. Meet Me at the Albany is a bold and imaginative response to that reality and we hope it is just the start - a pioneering example of the way arts spaces across the country can become meeting points for people who are marginalised or written out of the script.  Places where people can connect and actively contribute to the cultural life of their communities.”

Notes to editors

* ONS National Census 2011 http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20160105160709/http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171776_325486.pdf

** NHS Personal Social Services Adult Social Care Survey, England - 2013-14 http://content.digital.nhs.uk/catalogue/PUB14386

  1. The City Hall Get Moving report can be read here: www.london.gov.uk/get-moving 
  2. The Get Moving pilot ran from 1 March to 31 July 2016
  3. City Hall’s Get Moving scheme, rolled out across 22 boroughs between March and July 2016, aimed to improve the health and wellbeing of older Londoners. More than 700 Londoners over the age of 55 participated, with 92 per cent over 60 years old. 37 per cent of participants were ethnic minorities and over 50 per cent were disabled
  4. Six short films were made on the Get Moving pilot, highlighting case studies and the benefits activities had on Londoners. The films can be viewed here: www.london.gov.uk/get-moving
  5. Meet Me at the Albany was launched as an alternative day care and lunch club for the over 60s and is jointly led by artists and participants. Launched in 2013, it is run by the Albany and Entelechy Arts in partnership with London Borough of Lewisham.  The programme brings together a community of isolated older people who have the least access to community services and support. Over 40 volunteers and participants meet weekly at the Albany and activities range from crafts and choir to circus and dance. The programme expanded this year in a partnership with Lewisham Homes to sheltered accommodation sites throughout Lewisham.
  6. Voltarol®, made by GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare, contains diclofenac and is an anti-inflammatory pain reliever. The Voltarol® portfolio includes topical formulations to relieve pain and inflammation so that consumers can enjoy the Joy of Movement. To learn more about body pain and how to relieve body pain effectively, go to voltarol.co.uk.
  7. The following organisations took part in the Get Moving pilot:

-         All Change, Going Places (Islington)

-         Peabody, Age Is Just a Number (Hackney, Hammersmith & Fulham, Islington, Lambeth, Lewisham, Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Wandsworth, Westminster

-         Arts Depot, The Independents (Barnet)

-         Rambert, Mim’s Movers (Camden, Hounslow, Islington, Kingston upon Thames)

-         Entelechy Arts, Meet Me Moving (Lewisham, Southwark)

-         Green Candle Dance Company, Cut a Rug with Green Candle (Merton)

-         Southall Community Alliance (SCA), Golden Oldies (Southall)

-         Henna Asian Women’s Group, Active Until We Can (Camden)

-         Leonard Cheshire Disability, Keep Well Together (Wandsworth)

-         Age UK Merton, Fresh Start (Merton)

-         East London Vision, Active4Sight (Barking & Dagenham, Havering)

-         Art in The Park, Community Green (Southwark)

-         ActiveNewham, Health Active Programme (Newham)

-         Bishop Creighton House, Keep Active for Older People (Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea, Westminster)

-         Everyone Active, Staying Active (Ealing)

-         Leyton Orient Trust, Get Going Together (Hackney, Tower Hamlets)