Consider an outreach approach to running at least some of your physical activities. This means that you might run your class, program, activity or sport in locations closer to older people, e.g. Senior Citizens’ Clubs, neighbourhood houses, retirement villages, etc.
Check the availability of any local council community buses to assist with transport.
One Victorian local council classified attendance by an older person at a physical activity session as a ‘medical appointment’, thereby qualifying for transport in the council bus.
Make older people aware of all transport options available, including encouraging car-pooling.
Consider an outreach approach to running your physical activities. This means that you might run your class, program, activity or sport in locations closer to older people, e.g. Senior Citizens’ Clubs, neighbourhood houses, retirement villages, etc.
Ensure that staff/volunteers, who may be the first point of contact for older people, are welcoming and supportive (as the first contact is very important).
Where required, you may conduct programs and activities that cater for people of specific ethnic groups, e.g. in some areas with large Arabic populations, leisure centres often conduct women-only water aerobics classes to accommodate Muslim women.
Consider the readability of any information on websites and pamphlets. It should be in plain English and also allow for people with low English literacy and/or low vision.
Contact your local council to obtain a list of local organisations working with a diverse range of older people and make contact with them for advice.
Seek the input of older people who are Indigenous, culturally diverse or have a disability to find out how their needs might be best met.
If the program leader doesn’t have time to have individual discussions with each older person when they commence, if possible, have another appropriate staff member/volunteer undertake this task and provide feedback to the leader. The discussion with the older person should be two-way – providing and gaining information.
Make sure that all promotional pictures/images of older people are realistic, demonstrate diversity and are relevant to the local context (e.g. don’t have an image showing older people of only white, Anglo-Celtic background in an area of ethnic and cultural diversity).
Involve older people themselves in your staff/volunteer training and induction re: working with older people. Some of the older people in your organisation/service/club would be valuable in passing on useful advice from their own and others’ experiences.
Seek regular informal and formal feedback from the older people in your organisation/service/club to check that they feel valued, respected and welcomed by all staff.
If a class, program, activity or sport runs for 45 minutes, allow 30 minutes before and after (e.g. the room/venue booking is extended before and after) to provide an opportunity for socialising.
As an alternative, organise a social gathering for the participants (e.g. a morning tea) at least once every six months. Such a gathering suggested by the leader/tutor/coach/instructor might better include older people who lack confidence in socialising before or after the physical activity.
Building social connections is vitally important for improving attendance and ongoing adherence by socially isolated and disadvantaged participants. Helping new members form friendships through opportunities such as pre-activity information sessions or arranging group transport can be beneficial.
Ensure that older people are informed about what is involved in the physical activity (and/or the various options and levels of difficulty) before they commence. This may be done verbally or via written information.
Some key points that may be covered in an information sheet for prospective clients include the level of fitness which is required by participants (e.g. able to walk unaided for 15 minutes); cost of the activity (and whether concession prices are available); size of the class/group; class/program times; person to whom inquiries/questions may be addressed; any health contra-indications to participation.
Consider the readability of any information on websites and pamphlets. It should be in plain English and also allow for people with low English literacy and/or low vision
Some sports have been modified to suit people of varying abilities; e.g. walking soccer. Further information is available via Vicsport.
In some settings (such as a community health service), a self-assessment or assessment by a qualified health or fitness professional of an older person’s health status and/or functional capability may be undertaken when they commence a program.
Re-assess the abilities and preferences of older people, who are involved over an extended period of time, as their abilities and preferences may change.
Musculoskeletal Australia (or MSK) is the consumer organisation working with, and advocating on behalf of, people with arthritis, osteoporosis, back pain, gout and over 150 other musculoskeletal conditions.