Two Feet on the Wave: Join the Live Longer Better Revolution
I remember sitting down with the family enjoying some laugh out loud moments watching the comedy series ‘One Foot in the Grave’. If you’ve never seen it, this award-winning sitcom 1990-2001 involved Richard Wilson playing the grumpy Victor Meldrew navigating his way through older age. It brought together a series of moments, moans and misunderstandings that Victor often brought upon himself, but not always. In many episodes Mr Meldrew would often find himself in such a pickle he would let out the now famous exasperation “I don’t belieeeve it!”.
Recently I turned 50, not much younger than the age of Richard Wilson when he started playing Victor. It led me to a number of personal conversations with friends and professional discussions with colleagues about ‘how do we really age-well?’ and ‘how we can we challenge social mindsets?’ coined by the term ‘One Foot in the Grave’.
Perhaps Some of the Solutions to Ageing-Well Are Simpler Than We Realise
The fact I was having conversations with others is an answer in itself. Social interaction is a critical factor to thriving in older age. The more connected we are the more well we are. Anyway being 50 didn’t feel like I was entering a minority group. In fact, almost half of Devon are over 50 (47%).
Despite overwhelming evidence for human connection, isolation remains a growing societal challenge for an ageing dynamic exacerbated by the COVID pandemic locking us down for many months. A recent podcast conversation with Pete Ferlie, from Age UK Devon further highlighted the importance of the work of Age UK and the effect the pandemic has had on confidence levels for older adults in re-connecting beyond the front door. From this Pete talked about the value of creating opportunities to be active outdoors using our parks, moors, rivers and ocean assets as another cornerstone to quality of life in later years.
I don’t want to minimise the complexity of everyday life but when you really think about it perhaps some of the solutions to the questions of ageing-well are simpler than we realise. Just by looking at the first three of Five Ways to Well-being: ‘Connect’, ‘Be Active’ and ‘Take Notice’ of the world around you, you can start see a natural interdependence or synergy.
Connecting Actively to Nature and Being Naturally Healthy
Active Devon leads the Connecting Actively to Nature (CAN) programme focusing on a retirement transition audience. Through this we have seen the value of all three elements of well-being coming together. Funded by Sport England the work is in its third of five years and brings together the Devon Local Nature Partnership, natural environment organisations, volunteer networks and strategic partners such as NHS Devon. Steeped in principles behind behaviour change the work hopes to help thousands of over 55s in Devon connect with nature through group-based activity opportunities.
As part of CAN earlier in the year Active Devon ran the Naturally Healthy May campaign providing activation investment and support for over 40 micro projects from themed foraging walks to beach yoga and open water bathing. Over 300 people took part in local activities supported by a large network of voluntary and public sector deliverers. With many of the opportunities having an inter-generational aspect highlighting the importance of bringing families together as another component of ageing-well.
Aligned with the ‘partnership’ approach of CAN, much of the solutions to ageing-well also lies in collaborative or systems work underpinned by the ‘lived experience’ of older adults.
The Live Longer Better Revolution
Recently Active Devon has been growing in knowledge and connection through the ‘Live Longer Better’ revolution led by Sir Muir Gray the author of ‘Sod 70!’. Sir Muir wants us all to fundamentally reassess what we think about ageing and challenge the perception that we should be doing less when really we need to be doing more. At the core of this is a culture shift across national and local systems from ‘care’ to ‘enablement’ building on evidence that physical activity should be the heartbeat of what Sir Muir calls a ‘revolution’.
Perhaps some of this revolution is broad and some through incisive increments in local places such as our work supporting Torbay and South Devon NHS in addressing frailty. This COVID response approach is aimed to enhance access to learning for physical activity workforce and enable more seamless connection (or even referrals) for opportunities to move more, both indoors and fundamentally outdoors.
Cold Water Immersion Can Have Many Health Benefits
In one of the professional conversations recently a clinician also highlighted to me the unprecedented growth in open water swimming or simply immersion in the cold water and the associated health and ageing-well benefits. Later in the day I went surfing (as I often do) on the beautiful North Devon coast. As I sat on my board thinking about how the next 50 years might go a wave approached. I went for it. It was so life giving.
Then I realised for these sunshine years it doesn’t have to be ‘One Foot in the Grave’ but instead ‘Two Feet on the Wave’.