Home' Active Retirees : Active Retirees June July 2014 Contents COVER STORY
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For Alison Kennedy, bushwalking
is the fountain of youth for all age
groups, particularly helping older
people to keep fit, active and social.
She runs the Oakhill Dural
Probus Club's bushwalking group,
and she's passionate about hitting
the trail each month with as many
members as she can rustle up.
"We're lucky that in Sydney
there's a lot of great walks not too
far away," says the 71-year-old.
And her walks aren't necessarily
for those who just want a gentle
stroll either -- there's another
walking group that stays out of
the bush for members who prefer
something easier, she says.
"I do try to make the bushwalks
a bit challenging because it's good
to be challenged at our age as well.
The last walk we did was 10.8km
and a bit a steep at times." And
while some voiced a bit of concern
at the start, they all made it, "and
felt good about themselves for
doing it," she adds.
"Bushwalking gets you out in the
fresh air. You get to see beautiful
flora and fauna," Alison says.
"It's good for your balance, your
coordination, your joints and your
fitness. Plus you get to have a
good chat with other people while
you walk. Afterwards you feel so
healthy and energised."
Unit at Melbourne's Monash
University, herself a 69 year old.
"And the key to that is staying active,
keeping socially connected and
She also highlights a change in
societal attitudes to ageing. "Ageism
is alive and healthy in Australia
and many still struggle to see the
richness of experience and wisdom
that older people can bring to our
communities and workplaces. An
attitudinal change among everyone
is very important when we consider
we are an ageing population.
Improved health of older people will
ﬂow from that.”
Bounce the moon
The research results don't beat
around the bush. The more people
stay engaged and active the better.
A 2012 Portuguese study showed
that regular exercise may help
older people reduce their chances of
developing dementia. The University
of Lisbon researchers found that
older, non-disabled people who
regularly engaged in physical activity
reduced their risk of vascular-
related dementia by 40 per cent and
cognitive impairment from any cause
by 60 per cent.
Other research has found that
exercise can reduce the incidence of
depression in older people. Studies
have also found that when older
people, particularly post-menopausal
women, take part in a weights
program they can signiﬁcantly
improve bone density and reduce the
debilitating impact of osteoporosis.
"There is a lot of research
happening around this topic
because older people are making up
a signiﬁcant part of our population,
and that number is growing," says
Andrew Ford, senior lecturer on old
age psychiatry at the University of
WA and the WA Centre for Health
He agrees that exercise is vital,
and cites research conducted by his
unit and involving 12,000 elderly
Western Australian men, that found
that sustained physical activity can
add years to life and substantially
improve the quality of those years.
But those extra years of happy
life require about 150 minutes of
vigorous physical activity per week
-- described by the researchers as
"exertion that made people huff
"Not only were active people
more likely to survive, but those
who were alive and active when we
followed up had reached old age
in good shape, without evidence
of depression or of cognitive or
functional problems," says lead
author Professor Osvaldo Almeida.
"In other words they were able to
move about and do their business
without signiﬁcant assistance –
looking after their ﬁnances, looking
after themselves, looking after their
house etc. and they did not have any
evidence of mental illness."
Snatching up all the
More studies have conﬁrmed that
older people who are socially active
and maintain or increase their
interactions with others have a slower
progression of health declines than
their peers who become less socially
engaged over time. They are also
more motivated to maintain their
health than their less-engaged peers.
With this in mind, many studies
are now being conducted into how
social media and the online world
can contribute to ensuring older
people feel connected.
The Australian National University
(ANU) is halfway through a large-
scale four-year study called the
Social Networks and Ageing Project
(SNAP), investigating how older
people are using online worlds to stay
Ageism is alive
and healthy in
Australia. Many still
struggle to see the
richness of experience
and wisdom that older
people can bring to
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