Public health agencies across the UK should launch a National COVID-19 Resilience Programme to support older people through the pandemic, according to The Physiological Society and Centre for Ageing Better.
In a new report, the organisations present polling data from the YouGov project which show that almost one in three older people did less physical activity during the first lockdown. Of those, 43 per cent said this was because they no longer had a reason or had less reason to get out of the house and be active; 32 per cent were worried about catching COVID-19; and 29 per cent reported lacking motivation to exercise.
The document says the government should repeat the approach taken at the start of the first lockdown to identify and proactively contact those at highest risk to offer support and advice.
It says a National COVID-19 Resilience Programme should include:
- A tailored exercise programme focused on COVID-19 risk factors, e.g., obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and sarcopenia.
- Clear guidance on a healthy balanced diet.
- Enhanced mental health support through the creation of virtual communities to counter social isolation.
- Enlist help of relatives and volunteers.
- Should be supported by a digital platform and by national broadcasters, e.g., televised activity classes on BBC.
Professor Paul Greenhaff from the University of Nottingham, expert panel co-chair, said: "Lockdowns, while important to reduce transmission of COVID-19, can have a detrimental effect on both the physical and mental health of older people. These changes happen rapidly: within 3 days of not using muscles, people can experience significant decreases in muscle mass and quality which might be the difference of an older people being able to get out of a chair by themselves or not."
"We are calling on public health agencies to urgently address this by launching a National COVID-19 Resilience Programme to support older people through the pandemic. Older people need clear, tailored guidance, about how to keep healthy and resilient, that covers physical activity, nutrition and mental wellbeing.”