A new program is aiming to get more than 15,000 inactive older Australians across the country physically and socially active through group exercises classes delivered face-to-face and over telehealth.

Exercise Right for Active Ageing involves 12 weeks of subsidised Pilates, yoga, falls prevention, strength, balance or general fitness training for people aged 65 or over.

It is an initiative of Exercise & Sports Science Australia, the professional organisation for tertiary-trained exercise and sports science practitioners, and is supported by a $1.8 million Federal grant under Sport Australia’s Move It AUS – Better Ageing program.

ESSA senior policy and relations advisor Leanne Evans said anybody over 65 who is inactive according to the National Physical Activity Guidelines and not living in residential aged care is eligible.

Leanne Evans

“Our particular targets are women over 75, because we appreciate that their health drops off from that age particularly in terms of strength and general fitness, and people living in rural and remote areas,” Ms Evans told Australian Ageing Agenda.

“To help, we are also delivering classes through telehealth, which is quite unique for a subsidised program because there are no telehealth items through the Medicare Benefits Schedule yet for exercise physiology.”

Group sessions will be held in facilities including exercise physiology clinics, council-owned leisure facilities and retirement villages.

Telehealth delivery for participants who can’t access these classes will involve group sessions using video conferencing technology. Participants need an internet-connected computer with a web camera.

ESSA is interested in hearing from retirement living and Commonwealth Home Support Providers to develop packages for their clients to access.

“We are hoping to attract probably well over 15,000 people from across the country to our program,” Ms Evans said.

Increase activity, reduce isolation

ESSA been working with its members, who are accredited exercise physiologists and accredited exercise scientists, to provide training and support to help them deliver the program.

Members are being encouraged to refer participants to volunteering opportunities to connect them into the community, Ms Evans said.

Participants need to contribute a weekly co-payment and take part in pre-screening involving a tool ESSA developed with industry health sector partners.

The program involves functional testing of participants throughout and at the end of the program to see that general health and wellbeing improves.

This is one of the program’s key goals, Ms Evans said.

“The overall goal of the program is to get more people more active and reduce their social isolation,” she said.

“Ideally in working with our members we want to try and ensure that people continue to exercise.

“To do that we are looking at developing partnerships with the other funded programs so we can cross-refer to them.

“There is a whole range of modified programs for that age group, such as golf, walking soccer, walking netball,” she said.

Providers and individuals can find out more on the program’s website here.

Health professionals can also email eraa@essa.org.au for more information.

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