The Live Stronger for Longer movement has been designed by ACC, the Ministry of Health, the Health Quality and Safety Commission and the wider health sector.

“Falling over isn’t part of the aging process,” says Marama Tauroa, ACC’s Injury Prevention Portfolio Manager/Falls. “Many falls are preventable provided older people do regular exercises that strengthen leg and core muscles and improve balance – it’s that simple.

“Getting older does increase the risk of a fall: After 65, we have a 1-in-3 chance and if you are over 80 that increases to a 1-in-2 chance. If you’ve had a fall in the past, you are also more likely to fall again in the future.”

The goal of the Live Stronger for Longer movement is that every person in New Zealand, 65 and over, should be able to attend an approved community group strength and balance class. An approved class meets the nine-clinical assessment criteria which means they are safe for older people.

There are currently over 800 local approved community strength and balance classes available across the country. Classes may also include dancing, exercise to music, circuit work and things like Tai Chi, Zumba or Langi Mai.

In Wellington the local Lead Agent, Sport Wellington, provides support and training for people who want to run a local community group strength and balance class. Sport Wellington train the volunteer ‘trainers’ and make sure that all the health and safety requirements are met.

NIGEL is an approved Live Stronger for Longer community group strength and balance class which has been going in Wellington’s suburb Ngaio for over a year: Alyson Howell and Lionel Nunns were the co-founders.

“I became involved because I had recently retired and I wanted to do something in the community. I knew about the Live Stronger for Longer movement because I used to work for ACC so I got together with friend, Lionel who was also interested in setting up a community class.

“We knew that we couldn’t do it alone, we needed to gather a team around us. That came together quite easily through various contacts and there are now eight of us who have all been through the Sport Wellington training.

“We run one session a week, starting at 10.30 am and finishing about 11.20, followed by tea and biscuits, funded through a very genuine koha. The sessions are in our local church which doubles as a hall, so there are no rental costs.

“Before people start we give them a form to fill in, and encourage them to talk with their doctor if need be. We are not health professionals and we want people to make sure that the programme is the right thing for them to do.

“We get about 30 people on average, we could only safely take 40, so 30 is nice. To begin with we had more women than men, but male members are starting to go up.

“The exercise programme is divided into two halves. In the first we do warming up activities, then we move onto a bit more activity.

“None of the exercises are on the floor. People are either sitting on chairs or standing up. We always say, if it hurts don’t do it. And we say – ‘stand-up’ and if you’d rather sit down, that’s good: you know what you can do. We’re really strong on selfmanagement.

“After they have been with us for a while, I can really see the difference in the physical ability.

“Sport Wellington is always in the background and we like that. They give us a few bits of equipment such as bands and weights. We could also talk with them about how to work with someone who has special needs. We make sure that everyone is welcome. There are always two people running the sessions. Lionel is always on the door, greeting people and he sends out a weekly email. I think they like our class because we are not gym bunnies dressed in lycra! When we started, we called the programme Ngaio Agile, but we thought we would have a bit of fun and call it NIGEL. We joke we are all Nigelers or doing our Nigeling, so we always start with a bit of a smile.

“We decided not to play music, you need a licence to do that, and that costs money, so we sometimes sing instead, using songs like row row row the boat. People break into parts and harmonise. It is absolutely gorgeous.

“And people tell us they are meeting old friends or making new friends. The social interaction at the end is phenomenal. Nan makes the morning tea and Kate helps with the dishes and there are always community notices, like Jenny needing jars for her marmalade, or Margaret, who is in our local repertory who lets us know about a play coming up, or Isobel who tells us about her choir performances. So, our programme is not just about physical fitness, it is about building community. And the vehicle is fitness.

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