Pilot Project for older Stevenage residents

In July 2010, a comparatively short PCT-funded Health and Well-being Project for Stevenage over 60’s came to an end, with quite dramatic results. The 2 ½ hour weekly programme, running over 8 consecutive weeks, consisted of 1 hour of T’ai Chi, half an hour of socialising over tea and biscuits, and a further hour of ‘Mindful Movement’ which incorporated the principles of Alexander Technique. Thirty-two people participated – and their experiences of the programme are shared here. They reported that they experienced the following outcomes:

  • Improved mobility and flexibility
  • Greater proprioceptive awareness
  • Increased ability to perform domestic and gardening tasks
  • Improved mood

and they made new friends and continued these relationships outside the classroom.

One 87-year old recounted how she had suspended her embittered negotiations with the Council for an electric buggy because she ‘no longer needed it’.

Potential key target groups

There is great scope for improving the lives of older people through structured group-based activity programmes which draw on self-help techniques often considered part of complementary health.  Click here to read feedback from this programme.

Conclusion

Structured group-based exercise activity enhances mental and physical well-being and offers an extremely cost-effective way of delivering these outcomes. Moreover, it provides an opportunity for a non-stigmatising escape from the social isolation which is the precursor and concomitant of so much mental ill-health.

In comparison with pharmacological or specialist interventions, their cost is negligible and the techniques learned have been shown to be used far beyond the duration of the programmes. Whatever its shape, we believe the model of structured group-based interventions can provide an important key to the enhanced well-being, the resilient individuals and the flourishing society outlined in New Horizons and other recent government documents.