You may think that offering your seat to someone elderly on public transport is a considerate thing to do, but experts have revealed that doing so could actually hamper their health as they age.
In fact, old people should be encouraged to stand and discouraged from taking it easy in order to keep themselves fit, an Oxford professor claims.
Sir Muir Gray, clinical adviser to Public Health England, has spoken out to say the elderly should try to walk for ten minutes a day and relatives should encourage to take the stairs instead of a lift or excalator.
“We need to be encouraging activity as we age — not telling people to put their feet up,” he told The Sun. “Don’t get a stairlift for your ageing parents, put in a second banister.
“And think twice before giving up your seat on the bus or train to an older person. Standing up is great exercise for them.”
A concerted effort to encourage older people to keep active can help them live more independently and reduce the need for social care, further experts argue in a new report in The British Medical Journal.
Scarlett McNally, an orthopaedic surgeon at Eastbourne District General Hospital, says that “exercise can reverse the decline and keep a person above the threshold for needing increased care.”
In the BMJ article, health experts argue that the effects of ageing are often confused with loss of fitness - and it’s actually loss of fitness that increases the risk of needing social care.
In fact, evidence shows that middle aged and older people “can increase their fitness level to that of an average person a decade younger by regular exercise.”
What’s more, studies have also shown that keeping fit can improve cognitive ability and reduce the risk of dementia.
The prevailing attitude that exercise is for young people while older people should be encouraged to relax “needs to be challenged,” they write.
“Gyms, walking groups, gardening, cooking clubs, and volunteering have all been shown to improve the health and wellbeing of people at all ages with long term conditions.”
The experts say exercise and keeping active needs to be more accessible for older people.
Rather than lying in hospital beds whenever they’re ill, the authors are calling for a greater focus on rehabilitation and support.
“We need individuals to understand their role in reducing demand for social care by being active,” they write. “The gap between the best possible level of ability and actual ability can be reduced at any age, no matter how many long term conditions the person may have.”
The increase in the level of ability “may not only restore the person to the ability they enjoyed 10 years earlier, it may make the crucial difference between living well at home or being dependent on social care or residential care,” they conclude.