In Hertfordshire our mission is to provide learning opportunities for people who are living longer, those people who provide support, as professionals, as volunteers or as family members, and for those people to lead the revolution.
The Live Longer Better revolution
It is important to emphasise that what happens to you as you live longer is not always your fault, neither is it all caused by the normal biological ageing process. There are environmental pressures. The world in which we live is a dangerous place, with many factors, social and physical, from low income to air pollution, causing the problems that surface as the decade's pass. As well as offering coaching to individuals we want to change the way society, and the health and social services, think about ageing and growing older. We need to change the environment, both physical and social, and our social objectives are:
- To inform people about the inter-relationship between ageing, loss of fitness, disease and the beliefs and attitudes of society
- To support people who would benefit in overcoming the obstacles to increased social, mental and physical activity
- To promote the positive contribution that older people make to society and to counteract the detrimental effects of ageism
- To create an environment in which people can fulfil their potential
- To enable strengthening of purpose
- To support carers better
- To minimise and mitigate the effects of deprivation
- To reduce the risk of and delay or prevent dementia
- To prevent and minimise the effects of disease and multimorbidity
- To enable both living well and dying well
Focused on coaching
We are not just an information service, although the advice is based on the best current scientific evidence. There is a growing understanding of the need for new thinking about population ageing both for individuals and for society. The shift in focus is from life expectancy to health life expectancy, or to put it another way from lifespan to healthspan, although it is still essential to remember the huge difference in life span between people from the wealthiest and the most deprived subgroups of the population. The other significant shift is from 'care' where that implies merely doing things for people who can no longer do those things fo themselves to a new culture of enabling them to regain the ability to do those things, a culture of enablement. Indeed there is much to be learned from the culture of coaching where the mission of the coach is to support people in closing the gap between potential and performance. We are a learning programme for people living longer, for their supporters and enablers, both professional and voluntary and for the leadership of all the organisations involved in population ageing.
Activity is key
Activity, physical, mental and social, or, to put it another way, physical, cognitive and emotional is of vital importance in achieving optimal ageing, that is, to keep the gap between your actual level of ability and your best possible level of ability by preventing loss of fitness or regaining lost fitness, both physical and mental by what we have called 'training' but could just as well be called activity, particularly activity that challenges body brain and mind.
The benefits of physical activity are obvious. Mental activity increases your ability to think clearly and logically, increasing cognitive fitness and social activity will help emotional fitness, not just feeling better because people have done something nice for you but because you have done something good for other people. These are simple principles based on strong scientific but we live in a society in which many people, including highly trained people, are ignorant or confused about what is going on and how to cope with it.
2021-2023 - The years of reconditioning
The need for a revolution in the way we think about ageing was evident long before Covid but the Covid Pandemic and the impact of lockdown has increased the awareness of the need to think and act differently. Necessary though lockdown was to reduce the risk of infection, the resulting inactivity and isolation has had a huge impact. This has been called a second pandemic, the Deconditioning Pandemic.
COVID-19 continues to pose a significant threat to our communities, particularly to the health and wellbeing of older and vulnerable people and their communities. Home confinement in older people may cause cardiorespiratory and metabolic deconditioning, insulin resistance, muscle loss, increased fat mass and social isolation may be worsened with very significant impact on walking and stability. Furthermore, COVID-19 risk factors include obesity, diabetes and coronary vascular disease; the severity of disease rises with age and the risk factors are associated with ageing.
Physical activity is an important factor in staying healthy and can play a key role in Covid-19 outcome management and resilience after lockdown. Vaccinations are tremendously important but this in itself will not resolve the increasing levels of anxiety, isolation, loneliness and deconditioning. Physical activity can formulate part of the COVID resilience programme and is part of the Covid strategy.
The action needed is exactly the same as was planned before Covid but the need is now urgent to enable people to recover the abilities lost during lockdown. 2021 has to be the year of Resilience or the year of Reconditioning and the Live Longer Better revolution is part of the recovery.