Governing bodies adapted sports for older people

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Adapted sports to tackle inactivity and loneliness

The national bodies for volleyball, weightlifting, orienteering and boccia have launched revamped versions of their sports, in order to attract people aged over 55, and encourage them into physical activity and healthy competition.

The initiative has come about in partnership with Oomph! Wellness, who specialise in improving the health of older adults. They have a national plan to get 27,000 older adults doing regular, fun exercise within two years.
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Sheltered housing and similar venues to host adapted sports classes

Employees and volunteers in environments that cater for older adults are being trained to lead classes.

Provided with the skills, knowledge and equipment to run adapted sports classes, they have already started delivering at venues from Lancashire to Hertfordshire.

Oomph! already offers exercise classes and outings in the care home industry, and is one of the largest delivery partners of Sport England’s £10 million Active Ageing Fund.
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Sports resized for older adults

All the adapted sports have been designed to be run by trained instructors, without the need for expensive regulation equipment and facilities.

• Volleyball England has approved a fabric covered inflatable ball and bunting in place of an official net.

• British Weight Lifting has designed resistance exercises using foam pool noodles, and recommends the use of everyday objects such as water bottles as hand weights.

• British Orienteering is helping venues to create walking (or marching) courses which use post boxes and other local landmarks as checkpoints.

• Boccia England has taken the principles of a Paralympic sport and modified them for older adult settings, for example by suggesting the use of bean bags in place of specialist bowling balls.

Other sports’ National Governing Bodies are now in discussions about adapting their games for this growing demographic.
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Some facts and figures around inactivity

• The Chief Medical Officer defines an inactive person as someone who, over the course of a week, does not achieve a total of 30 moderate intensity equivalent (MIE) minutes of physical activity.

• There are roughly 5.8 million inactive people over 55 in England and the number of inactive people is growing as people are living longer.

• Inactivity among over-55s is responsible for as many deaths as smoking.

• 36% of over 55s are inactive compared to 26% of the population as a whole.

• 49% of 75-84 year olds are inactive, and 72% of those aged 85+.
[Sport England’s Active Lives survey November 2015 – November 2016]
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Weightlifting is one of the adapted sportsBen Allen, CEO of Oomph! said:

“By ‘gamifying’ exercise for older adults we’re making it fun and sociable rather than functional. We already use sports rather than pure exercise to motivate previously reluctant participants to join our classes on a regular basis. However, this new combination of Oomph!’s expertise with the appeal and competitive edge of professional sports bodies, is game-changing.”

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Peter Hart, CEO of British Orienteering commented:

“At British Orienteering we are proud to be a sport that encompasses a wide age group, we have active members in their 90s, but working with Oomph! is the first time we have adapted many of our introductory activities to work with inactive older adults. It’s my belief that orienteering can offer older adults a fantastic mix of physical and mental exercise by adapting the challenge to suit their abilities.”

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Gillian Harrison, Technical and Talent Coordinator at Volleyball England:

“We are always keen for people to join the volleyball family because we know that everyone can get involved and benefit socially and physically – volleyball is the sport for everybody. Sitting Volleyball is one of the disciplines of volleyball which is already popular and a great chance for players with and without a disability to play together. So, we jumped at the chance to work with the experts at Oomph! to provide an adapted form of the game for the older age group. Their knowledge of how older adults could benefit from an active lifestyle made it easy to develop the concept of armchair volleyball.”

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Zoe Metcalfe Head of Workforce at British Weight Lifting:

“British Weight Lifting is delighted to partner with Oomph! on this exciting new initiative. This is the first time that weight lifting has been adapted to this age group and we have developed an innovative programme that is engaging and fun.”

Sport England has put tackling inactivity at the heart of its strategy and launched the Active Ageing fund to tackle inactivity in the over 55s.
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Further reading and resources

(links to other websites will open in a new browser window)

Find out more about Sport England’s Active Ageing Fund

We have an area of Independent Living dedicated to accessible sports

Find out about Wheelchair dancing

Boccia is a great sport for people with a range of physical abilities.

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3 Responses to “Governing bodies adapted sports for older people”

  1. Deb Burns April 11, 2018 at 11:48 am #

    are there any self defence classes for disabled people in Manchester? I would like the opportunity to take one or help organise one if possible.

    Many thanks for your time

    Deb Burns

    • Frances April 11, 2018 at 11:53 am #

      Hi Deb

      Good question! The quick answer is I don’t know, but I will try and find out…

    • Frances April 11, 2018 at 12:01 pm #

      So, there is a martial art called Keysi, which I’ve never heard of before, but it looks interesting – and there are classes for wheelchair users in Manchester. You can read more about it here and there is a link in the article to go to their website and find out more.

      Good luck! Let me know how you get on…

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