Keep fit longer, elderly urged

By Teuila Fuatai

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Wairarapa residents out to make the most of their twilight years should do more vacuuming and gardening, the Health Ministry says.

Initiatives to keep pensioners healthy for longer were published in a 62-page report by the Health Ministry last week.

Recommendations included dancing, housework, playing with grandchildren and kapa haka.

Aversham House rest home owner Cheryl Powell said residents kept active with a variety of activities.

"We have tai chi.

"We do chair activities - exercises in the chair."

Garden walks in the sun and indoor bowls were also popular.

Mrs Powell said residents were encouraged to stay as active as possible.

"If a person gets to the stage where they can't walk around and they need to be wheelchaired, they sometimes need to be assessed as requiring hospital-level care."

According to Statistics NZ estimates, about 611,400 Kiwis were aged over 65 last year. Around 63,000 lived in the Wellington region, which included Wairarapa.

Health Ministry Chief Medical Officer Dr Don Mackie stressed the importance of keeping healthy through the years to get more out of life, while also keeping burgeoning costs in the public health system in check.

"People are living longer - and we want to see that those years are spent in good health.

"Healthy, active, older people are able to make positive contributions to whanau, communities and wider society for longer."

Research showed regular exercise reduced the risk of stroke and heart disease, according to the Health Ministry report.

It could also assist in management of conditions like arthritis, depression and type two diabetes.

Dr Mackie said any activities that increased breathing and heart rates helped. And everyday things like gardening and carrying shopping bags all counted.

Ideally, people would be adding in activities that promoted flexibility and balance, such as stretching and golf, he said.

He recommended exercise be carried out five times a week in 30-minute lots. Walking, cycling, swimming and playing with grandchildren were all great.

A healthy ageing population would also benefit New Zealand in the long run.

"Like health systems around the world, we face significant challenges in responding to an ageing population.

"We want to help older New Zealanders stay active, independent and prevent illness, rather than focusing only on treating ill-health."

Physical activity combined with good nutrition was a key contributor to healthy living and would help in preventing and managing certain chronic conditions, Dr Mackie said.

Recommended exercise for 65-plus Bowls

Modified tai chi

Water aerobics

Washing the car


Stair climbing

Source: Ministry of Health

- Wairarapa Times-Age

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