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Age Concern has called on the government to do more to offer better access to exercise and nutrition advice for the elderly in order to help free up hospital beds.
The charity cited research being conducted by Liverpool Hope University which includes two major multidisciplinary research projects into healthy ageing. One looks at the impact of exercise and nutrition on different aspects of healthy ageing, and another investigates the health benefits of playing tennis as we age.
Participants between the ages of 60 and 90 in the clinical study have been given specific nutrition plans and will take part in both individual and group exercise, including walking groups, dance lessons and fitness classes.
The researchers are also examining a range of measures including balance, muscle strength, gait, physical and mental well-being, and the ability to perform everyday tasks such as getting in and out of a chair.
The findings indicated that better access to exercise classes and practical advice on nutrition could help reduce the need for hospitalisation for elderly people.
The news comes as Age Concern has quoted government projections that by 2037, there will be 1.42 million more households headed by someone aged 85 or over - an increase of 161 per cent over 25 years.
Dil Daly, chief executive of Age Concern Liverpool & Sefton explained: “We are reading more and more stories about older people not being allowed to leave hospital because they cannot look after themselves at home. We need to put more preventative measures in place to help people age more healthily and recover more quickly when they do find themselves in hospital.
“Isolation has a massive impact on older adults' overall health. That is why we are so interested in this study's focus on group activity as well as nutrition. At Age Concern Liverpool & Sefton, we see time and again that when older people live alone, their diet suffers too. A less nutritious diet and less exercise, combined with the fact that as we age we lose muscle mass, can create exactly the circumstances that lead to longer recovery times and lower levels of wellbeing and general health.
“What is encouraging about this study is that it is measuring the impact of both dietary interventions and group exercise on completing everyday activities, such as walking and getting out of a chair. If, as a result of this research, we can give our service users simple advice on the small things they can do, and get more evidence to support our call for more access to group exercise for older people, we can make a massive difference to the lives of older people across the UK."
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