The ‘walkability’ of Ireland’s cities and towns needs to be improved to support people to live healthier lives, a conference organised by the Institute of Public Health in Ireland (IPH) was told.
Healthcare professionals, government officials, policymakers and community organisations, from North and South, gathered to consider the role of physical activity in keeping the island of Ireland’s ageing population healthier for longer.
Over 977,000 people are currently aged 65 or over across the island. This will increase to over 2 million people by 2051.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that people aged 65 and over should do at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, such as a brisk walk, five times a week.
But research shows that 1 in 2 people aged 65 and over across the island do not get enough physical activity.
Keynote speaker Prof Shane O’Mara, the author of a new book In Praise of Walking, told the conference that more is needed to support older people to build walking into their lives.
Prof O’Mara said: “Our bodies are designed for walking. Within the first few months of life, as babies we try to walk. But as we grow older, at a time when the benefits of physical activity are so important, we become less active and walk less.
“So we need to do more to support older people to increase their levels of physical activity. In addition to and as a complement to treatment, it would be really good to see healthcare professionals prescribing and encouraging people to walk more. We need to restore walking and make it something that is part of our everyday lives. We have become more sedentary as a society, and much of our environment isn’t designed for movement. Most walking is going to take place in towns and cities, so we need to rethink how we design our urban areas to facilitate easy walking and support public health.”
The conference also heard from Dr Chris Leggett (Royal College of General Practitioners); Vanda Cummins (Physiotherapist, HSE); Maurice Dillion (HSE); Dr Julie Broderick (Trinity College Dublin); Thomas McCabe (Siel Bleu); and Anne Gallagher (Mater Misericordiae Hospital).
A new report by IPH providing an overview of key policies that aim to support older adults to be more physically active was also launched at the conference.
The report- ‘Physical Activity and Older Adults’ – provides an overview of guidelines, trends, policies and frameworks.
Prepared by Dr Conor Cunningham and Prof Roger O’Sullivan, the report aims to be a resource for researchers, practitioners, and policymakers.
It forms part of an ongoing programme of work by the IPH on the theme of physical activity and ageing, focused on the role of healthcare professionals, both North and South, in supporting older adults to be more physically active.
You can view the full report and the executive summary with key findings below.
Photographs, video and slides from the event.
A video playlist from the event can be accessed below or directly on Youtube from this link.
Slides from each presenter can be viewed from the below links:
In Praise of Walking: The New Science of how we Walk and why it’s Good for us
An Integrated Approach to Falls, Frailty and Physical Activity in an Ageing Population
Strong, Steady and Straight - Raising the bar on keeping older people active
A physical activity resource for service users – experiences from a mental health setting
Exercising at all ages – the Cardiac Rehabilitation experience
Photos from the event can be viewed in the slideshow below, or directly at this link.