Swansea research highlights the benefits of Ageing Well
Academics from the School of Health Science at Swansea University have published a new report into the national Ageing Well programme.
Pictured at the report's launch are (left to right), Joy Merrell, Professor of Public Health Nursing at Swansea University, Gwenda Thomas, and Dr Sue Lambert.
The Ageing Well programme trains volunteers aged 50 and over to act as "health mentors" to their peers, passing on information and advice about healthy living.
Volunteers support other older people to access local opportunities to improve their health and wellbeing, including exercise or dancing classes, healthy cooking sessions, safety information days, or arts and IT activities.
The programme is co-ordinated by Age Concern and delivered locally level by either local Age Concern organisations, or other local partnerships working for older people.
The report, which was jointly commissioned by the Welsh Assembly Government and Age Concern England, looked at 46 projects, including 12 in Wales. The research was the first national evaluation of the Ageing Well programme since it began in 1994.
And the findings commend Ageing Well for the "very positive impact on the mental and physical health of the majority of participants, in particular social wellbeing."
Dr Sue Lambert, Head of Centre for Health Economics and Policy Studies in the School of Health Science at Swansea University, was one of the academics who conducted the review of the programme in England and Wales.
"One of the main findings of our evaluation was that older people told us that they have gained physical, social and health benefits from taking part in Ageing Well, and especially improvements in their social well being," said Dr Lambert.
"Volunteers told us how much they, and the fellow older people who they helped, benefited from involvements in projects which emphasise the value of using older volunteers."
Thirty-one clients took part in in-depth interviews, which formed the basis of the report. The majority were aged between 60 and 79, but 23% were aged between 80 and 85.
The clients were asked to assess the impact of Ageing Well on their knowledge and behaviour, and the results included:
- 61% said their knowledge about, and consumption of healthy foods had increased
- 68% said their knowledge of home safety had increased
- 97% said their social circle had increased
- 97% said their knowledge of the importance of physical activity had increased; and even better,
- 90% said their level of physical activity had increased.
Speaking at the report's launch at the Foothold Health and Wellbeing Project in Llanelli, Deputy Minister for Social Services Gwenda Thomas, said: "I am pleased to launch the Ageing Well Research Report, which has the wonderful title, 'As soon as I get my trainers on I feel like dancing'. I am told this is a quote from one of the clients of an Ageing Well project, and representative of many of the comments received.
"The report says that older volunteers can make a valuable contribution in promoting the health and wellbeing of others aged 50 and over, and can help sustain the broader strategic public health objectives for active ageing."
Mrs Thomas also announced the Welsh Assembly Government was extending its support for the scheme through an extension of the existing grant to Age Concern Cymru until March 2011.
The report will be circulated widely across Wales to key partners in public health, local government and local health boards, to those responsible for promoting the health and wellbeing of older people.
A copy is available online on the website of the Older People and Ageing Research and Development Network (OPAN Cymru), which is based at Swansea University. Visit www.opanwales.org.uk.