As former chair of Kilmarnock Football Club, and an active volunteer with Ayr United Football Academy, I hold physical activity dear to my heart. I’ve seen first hand what a difference it can make to people’s lives, their confidence and their ability to succeed and flourish. If we want healthier, more productive communities, we need to invest in helping people to live active lifestyles from early years right through to older age.
We know that Scotland’s people are living longer. However for many, that means living longer in poor health – not enjoying a longer healthy life expectancy. There is a strong equalities dimension to this, with those in the most deprived areas experiencing the poorest quality of health, and life, in older age.
Next year, we have an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the importance of physical activity for our older citizens as the European Year of Active Ageing gets underway.
I’m delighted Scotland was successful in bidding to host the World Congress on Active Ageing in August 2012 and that for the first time, that event will be opened up far beyond the research community. The event will take place over four days at the SECC in Glasgow and will attract world-leading academics, policy makers and service planners, older people themselves and those involved in delivering frontline support (whether paid or unpaid). For those who are unable to attend the World Congress, there will be an exciting range of work throughout Scotland next year, including the continuation of the Going for Gold initiative, which aims to increase activity within care settings.
LTCAS (Long-Term Conditions Alliance Scotland) will be working alongside Health Scotland and others to gather case studies and evidence and translate that into meaningful information for older people and the individuals and organisations that support them. A key aim will be to support the Reshaping Care for Older People programme by providing high-quality insight for Change Fund Partnerships so they can invest in evidenced-based, preventative activity that helps older people to remain active and well.
As we continue to look at how to invest limited public resources we need to recognise the significant benefits that opportunities to participate in physical activity produces. For many of the two million people who live with long term conditions – may of them older – remaining active improves physical and emotional health, reduces incidence of falls, increases capacity for self management and can be a vital route to social contact, informal support and increased confidence and capacity. In seeking to improve quality of life for our citizens, even in the face of demographic and fiscal challenges, LTCAS believes enabling people to be physically active – and to remain so – represents wise, preventative investment.