FITNESS & EXERCISE Give It Some Oomph! Oomph! is an award-winning social enterprise best known for transforming exercise and

activity provision in care homes. Here, Founder Ben Allen explains why his company is on a mission to bring the benefits of exercise to older adults in their communities.

Getting people fit and healthy is a massive industry - I should know, I used to be a personal trainer working with elite athletes and young and wealthy clients. There’s no shortage of new and creative classes from disco yoga and pole dancing to military style boot camps but these are almost exclusively aimed at the youth market. The inventors of these keep-fit innovations understand that even the most motivated amongst us benefit from an injection of fun, sociability and healthy competition. My personal mission has been to adapt this formula for older people.

million inactive people over 55 in England who are living independently in the community. Sport England liked our care home model so much that earlier this year they gave us nearly £1million to launch Oomph! in the Community, with a sporting twist that offers engaging services to independent older adults.

Working with an audience with slightly higher levels of baseline fitness has enabled us to draw in professional sporting bodies to adapt sports for this age group for the first time. Volleyball England, British Orienteering, British Weight Liſting and Boccia England are the first professional governing bodies to partner with us to design adapted games that can be run by instructors with no prior experience and without expensive regulation equipment and facilities. Oomph!’s expertise in ‘gamifying’ exercise with the skills and competitive edge of professional sports bodies has proved a big hit.

“For too long,

inactivity among older adults has

Starting with the care home sector in 2011, my company Oomph! Wellness has trained over 1,600 care staff around the UK. They know the people they care for best, which is why our delivery model works. Last year, nearly 60,000 life- affirming Oomph! exercise sessions took place in care homes across the country.

A natural extension to our work with older people living in residential care has been to cater for some of the 6.4

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been accepted as the status quo and this needs to change.”

Quantum Care have committed to training 48 members of their Hertfordshire team to deliver the adapted sports. So, if you pop into Quantum Care’s daycare facilities in Hertfordshire you’re likely to see a crowd of older people living in the area having a whale of a time playing volleyball with a fabric covered

inflatable ball and bunting in place of an official net. Or travel to one of Place for People’s facilities in Lancashire where day care users are having a laugh at their newfound weightliſting prowess!

The funding we’ve received allows us to offer comprehensive training to staff at venues with ongoing support, monitoring and evaluation and all the required kit for a nominal fee. Getting this kickstart will enable care providers and community venues to sustain this sporting revolution with minimal contributions from participants. There’s ample evidence to show that even paying as little as £1 per session makes participants place a higher value on the activity and show greater levels of commitment. We are in the business of boosting people’s wellbeing in later life by encouraging long term behavior change. Because of this, we have our national plan to get 27,000 older adults doing regular, fun exercise within two years.

For too long inactivity, among older adults has been accepted as the status quo and this needs to change. The benefits to care home residents of regular exercise are clear from our ongoing impact analysis – 84% of participants’ mental stimulation was boosted, 68% saw an increase in their physical mobility and 84% an increase in social interaction. It’s not just residents that benefit; care home staff also report an increase in job satisfaction from the positive impact they are having on helping residents stay fit, strong and happy.

Thousands of care homes are already shaking things up for residents. Now, I urge you to forge new connections in your community and share the sporting bug with older people living independently in your area.

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