GENTLY DOES IT

‘Technology’ and ‘exercise’: two words you would not normally associate with those of us who are hurtling towards the ‘Third Age’ (which sounds more like the latest in the Star Wars franchise than the terminology for our senior years).

Certainly, looking back at my parents’ generation, my Mum was more likely to be seen in a pair of comfy slacks than Lycra (a fabric which didn’t actually make an appearance until the mid-80s). The closest she came to a gym was a drafty Village Hall on a Wednesday Night for ‘Nifty 50s’ where touching their toes was the height of the ladies cardiovascular workout.

Roll forward a generation and the London Marathon progressively reports an increasing number of over 50s taking on the 26.2-mile challenge – and not dressed as a rhino or a diving bell. In fact, those aged 25-34 finished with an average time of 4:04:02 – only 0.15 of a second faster than those speedy 55–64-year-olds!

But let’s not pretend this is the norm. Statistics show when it comes to physical fitness and age, we are a society of extremes. Yes, there are an increasing number of runners and riders who devote their retirement years to being ‘first past the post’ but there are also a large proportion of over 60s who according to a recent NHS report, ‘Spend, on average, 10 hours or more each day sitting or lying down, making them the most sedentary age group’

They are reluctant to go to the gym for fear of displaying their lack of fitness and increased car ownership means they can easily struggle to make 100 steps a day let alone 10,000.

But then along came Covid 19. A worldwide pandemic from China is certainly on the drastic side when it comes to motivational triggers, but it appears to have worked.

Conscious that age and weight were two of the key factors when it came to catching and surviving this deadly disease – the Third Age took note – and took to their keyboards.

My own father was talked through the workings of on-line communication by his grandchildren – once he had worked out how to put his landline on speaker. As his confidence grew so did his enthusiasm and he was soon embracing ZOOM as happily as he once did his latest copy of the Radio Times.

And he was not alone, in the first lockdown, sales of iPads soared, and Tablets were soon at the side of the bed of an increasing number of over 70s and 80s – and not to be washed down with a glass of water.

As well as allowing for that much missed face to face conversation with family, this technology also allowed them to exercise. ‘Paracise’ and ‘Wobble’, two trademarked Gentle Exercise Classes sessions available on-line and designed specifically for those with mobility issues reported a 50 per cent increase in participation last year. Free from the stigma of public display, the elderly and disabled leapt (gently) at the chance to do these 30–45-minute standing and seated Zoom classes from the privacy of their own kitchen.

At Jog On, our own Gentle Exercise Classes grow week on week, through word of mouth, as more and more men and women see both the physical and mental benefits of their twice weekly classes. Simply having ‘something to put in the diary’ during this year of enforced isolation cannot be underestimated add into that the physical benefits of the strength and balance exercises we do, and it really is a win win.

As Derek Moffitt, 85, said: “I used to you go to a class in my local village hall but as soon as that stopped, I noticed my mobility and balance suffered.

“My daughter showed me how to click on the link sent to my e mail for these Jog On classes and they’ve really made a difference. It’s great to have a chat afterwards too!”

Every penny of our classes has gone direct to Hertfordshire Mind Network, a local mental health charity. When we handed a cheque for £1,144 to Caroline McGoohan from Herts Mind Network, said, “We have seen a large number of people contact our Crisis Helpline since we launched it last March and the money will help us continue to run this as well as buy much needed items for our Nightlight Service, providing accommodation at their Hemel Hempstead Crisis Centre.”

If you know anyone who would benefit from our fun, twice weekly classes please encourage them to grab their tins of beans and drop us an e mail – after all you’re never too old to try…