Age Is No Barrier
Age Shouldn’t Be a Barrier to Having the Time of Your Life.
Barbara “Barbie” Jones, one of our long term volunteers, along with a group of like-minded friends have met each morning for over 40 years to share in a revitalising swim and a sing-along. The Jellybean Minstrels are a well-known group of Cronulla women who embrace the early morning seawater to exercise and connect1. Whether it was by design or by chance, the Jellybean Minstrels may have discovered the closest thing humans have to the fountain of youth.
Strong social connections and regular exercise have consistently been shown that together they contribute heavily to a long and healthy life. It is estimated that 20% of older Australians are socially isolated2. This social isolation leads to less exercise, further multiplying the factors that affect health and well-being as we age. The Jelly Bean Minstrels are proof though that age does not mean your best days are behind you.
Causes of Social Isolation in Older Australians
The loss of a spouse, physical mobility, distance from family and a real or perceived mental decline are common factors. Ageism, discrimination based on age, can make an elderly person feel like they don’t belong in a certain environment. Moreover, social isolation can be a vicious cycle. Loneliness can impact self-esteem which reduces a person’s confidence to seek out much needed social situations. This cycle simply becomes harder and harder to get out of.
Health Benefits of Social Activity in Older People
It is easy to see a connection between social isolation and mental health. It is natural to want someone to talk to in order to relieve stress and anxiety. Being stressed or anxious can affect the immune system and cardiovascular health. Social stimulation also keeps people engaged intellectually which is a preventative factor to memory loss and dementia. Still, the biggest health benefit of social activity is the likelihood to undertake physical exercise.
Ladies from the Jellybean Minstrels, Cronulla NSW. Including Barbara “Barbie” Jones (far left).
Causes of a Lack of Exercise in the Elderly
We all need encouragement to get out of bed to exercise. Social isolation is one of the most common reasons elderly people do not maintain a regular exercise regime. Also, myths like “it is too late in life to make a difference” or that “injury is more likely”, prevent many from getting active. Sporting groups with a young demographic or sportswear advertising directed toward young people may make an elderly person feel out of place or even unwelcome in certain sports.
Improving Health in Elderly not Just Preventing a Decline
Exercise benefits everyone not just the young. Elderly people can achieve significant health improvements after just a short amount of exercise. Increased muscle mass, improved joint mobility, and cardiovascular improvement are all possible. Having reduced body fat as a result of exercise reduces the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Importantly, being active also makes it easier to make social connections as you are likely to be more mobile and able to undertake a wider variety of activities.
Diving into chilly ocean waters with the Jellybean Minstrels may not be your preferred method of social interaction or exercise. Although, by seeking strong social connections combined with regular exercise of your choice, may just find the best years of your life continue to be ahead of you.
Ladies from the Jellybean Minstrels, Cronulla NSW. Including Barbara “Barbie” Jones (far right facing camera).