The national exercise program offering government subsidised classes to inactive older Australians is seeking to collaborate with aged care providers now the program has been extended for another year due to COVID-19.
The Exercise Right for Active Better Ageing (ERAA) program, which is an initiative of peak body Exercise & Sports Science Australia funded via a Sport Australia Move It AUS – Better Ageing grant, launched in December 2019.
It offers seniors over the age of 65 living in the community and retirement living opportunities to become physically active and socially connected with peers through 12 weekly group exercises classes delivered face-to-face and via telehealth.
The program includes age appropriate Pilates, yoga, hydrotherapy, aqua aerobics, falls prevention, strength, balance or general fitness training and more delivered by Accredited Exercise Physiologists (AEPs).
ESSA senior policy and relations advisor Leanne Evans said early results from the program with research partner Monash University show significant improvements across all physical performance measures.
“Given these great results, we would love to extend our project’s reach and work with aged care providers to enable more older Australians to benefit from our project,” Ms Evans told Australian Ageing Agenda.
Providers can trial affordable exercise classes for inactive clients on Home Care Package waitlists and those not accessing allied health services through the Commonwealth Home Support Programme.
“We’re flexible as to what kind of exercise program can be offered as we appreciate that the needs in every community differ. Classes can be run anywhere by exercise physiologists at retirement villages, community centres, swimming pools or in-house in our members’ clinics,” Ms Evans said.
“We also know that once participants have finished their 12 classes, around 70-80 per cent of them stay involved because they like the social aspect of the classes and enjoy the sense of belonging our AEPs work hard to build.”
Pivot to virtual delivery
Ms Evans said like many activities for Australia’s seniors, COVID knocked the wind out of the initiative’s sails.
“Just as our project was picking up speed, we needed to suspend many face-to-face classes from late March onwards. We found older people generally took precautions earlier than government lockdowns and stayed home,” she said.
“To assist our existing participants continue to exercise safely throughout lock downs and periods of high community transmission, ESSA supported our exercise physiology members to transition to telehealth.”
This included developing practical guidance and resources on safe and quality telehealth services and telepractice standards to outline expectations for professional practice.
“These documents along with case studies and webinars ensured our members had the guidance to provide online classes to a high standard,” Ms Evans said.
ESSA also introduced a subsidised in-home assessment for AEPs to review and tweak home exercise environments and support people to install and access telehealth platforms.
“That’s left us really well prepared if another COVID wave hits Australia,” she said.
More information for providers and individuals is available on the program’s website here.
Providers and health professionals can also email [email protected] for more information.
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