The Age & Opportunity Active National Grant Scheme 2023 is now open for applications from groups that promote older people’s physical activity.
Funded by Sport Ireland, a total of €320,000 is being made available to all eligible local clubs, groups, care settings and organisations that promote increased participation in recreational sport or physical activity for older people as a main element of their activities.
Applications are open from Monday 30th January to noon, Friday 24th February 2023.
Minister of State for Sport and the Gaeltacht Jack Chambers welcomed the announcement saying: “Thelong-runningAge & Opportunity Active National Grant Schemehas proven an excellent resource in enabling older people to become more physically active. The grants announced today recognise the importance of physical activity for those who live in and use nursing homes and day centres. Approximately 13,000 people will benefit from these grants.
“The grant means so much,” said Veronica Callanan, Acting manager at Carrigoran Health and Day Care centre in Co Clare, one of the 94 homes to benefit from the scheme. “It means that we can purchase equipment that is versatile for our clients, meets all of their needs and all of their different abilities.”
Launched in September 2022 the grants scheme is open to all nursing homes and day care settings who aim to increase levels and frequency of participation in physical activity, of those in care. It is a combined initiative from Age & Opportunity and Sport Ireland.
The grant also supports the work of CarePALs. These are staff and volunteers from care settings who have undertaken the Age & Opportunity Active CarePALs course, which empowers them to lead suitable physical activity sessions with those who live or visit their setting.
Speaking about the grant, Dr.Una May, Chief Executive of Sport Ireland, welcomed Age & Opportunity Active programme’s focus this time on nursing homes and care centres.
“We are delighted to award funding to the Age & Opportunity Active National Grant Scheme. Given the circumstances that people who live in nursing homes have found themselves in these last couple of years due to COVID-19, keeping physically active or returning to activity is more important than ever. The grant acts as a valuable resource in getting more older people more active and we are delighted to share the good news of these grants today.”
Karen Horgan, CEO of Age & Opportunity, said today’s grant funding is helping create an Ireland where more older people can be more active and more connected. The allocation of these grants ensures that the benefits of physical activity in care settings is promoted and recognised, and allows us to support care settings in developing meaningful activities that will have a valuable impact on both the physical and mental health of the residents and clients.
“We are delighted to continue our partnership with Sport Ireland. Age & Opportunity works to ensure equality of participation for all older people, irrespective of background, culture, identity, setting or location.”
Tadhg Daly, CEO of Nursing Homes Ireland welcomed the initiative, saying:
“Almost 100 nursing homes and day centres within Irish communities that support the day-to-day living needs of thousands of older people will benefit from the Active National Grant Scheme this year. Physical activity fulfils an integral role in supporting, maintaining and improving the health and wellbeing of nursing home residents, whilst also promoting fun, camaraderie and happiness. We are delighted to support this initiative, which will bring great benefits to nursing home residents.”
Sarah O’Brien of HSE Health & Wellbeing, Healthy Eating Active Living Programme also welcomed the grant scheme saying:
“The CarePALs initiative is a really valuable support to staff in our day and residential services for older people. Building their skills and capacity to improve the health and wellbeing of older adults in our care by increasing their opportunity to participate in physical activity. All the evidence shows that when people, whatever their age or ability, are active and moving it improves mood, sleep and physical health. This grant scheme is a further invaluable support from Age & Opportunity and Sport Ireland to improving activity opportunities for all older adults.”
This grant is part of the Active National Grant Scheme announced in May 2022 when an initial €514,120 was allocated to nearly 1,000 groups and organisations around Ireland promoting sport and physical activity for older people. This brings the total Active National Grant Scheme awarded this year by Age & Opportunity to €580,130.
The Grant Scheme is part of Age & Opportunity’s Active programme, funded by Sport Ireland, and delivered nationwide with the support of Local Sports Partnerships and the HSE.
Nowhere to go – lack of toilets prevents older people exercising in public spaces
New research published by Age & Opportunity shows older people avoid using public spaces for physical activity due to a lack of access to toilet facilities. Of 200 people interviewed for the research lack of toilets was identified as the main barrier to enjoying the outdoors.
The research report entitled ‘Peer Research on Public Spaces’ investigated the barriers and motivators of older people using public spaces for physical activity. It was launched by staff, volunteers and peer researchers of Age & Opportunity along with representatives from Sport Ireland, Westmeath County Council and Arthritis Ireland in Mullingar on 29th September as part of European Week of Sport.
“There’s little point in making really beautiful public spaces if older people are not confident to walk around them because there are no clean toilets or comfortable seats to sit on,” said Mary Harkin, Policy, Research, and Evaluation Manager at Age & Opportunity.
The research also found that only 54% of older rural dwellers have access to public space within a ten minute walk. This is in contrast to 87% of older people in urban areas.
“It may seem counter intuitive that rural residents have less access to open public space. But given their limited access the report calls for specific focus to be given to creating accessible rural public spaces,” said Harkin.
The research was conducted using a novel approach in which 14 older people from the Age & Opportunity network worked as citizen researchers. Following training, they each interviewed up to 20 peers.
“Older people themselves asked questions of other older people. They chose who they’d interview and also did desk research to find good examples from around the world of where access to public space for older people is working well,” said Harkin.
Case studies identified included a hugely positive walking and befriending project in Milton Keynes in which almost a half of participants had fallen and a third had previously been hospitalised; city parks in China where older people account for 50% of those exercising (compared to 15% in the USA); a ‘stepping out together project’ in Canada which built older people’s confidence and core fitness.
Age & Opportunity also collaborated with Seamus Mullen of Straight Forward Research in the production of this report. Other key findings of the research include:
The main reasons older people access public space are health motivated. Secondary reasons include enjoying scenery and wildlife, spending time in nature, getting out of the house and feeling revitalised.
More people (51%) who use outdoor space meet the HSE’s physical activity guidelines for their relevant age group than those (34%) who do not make use of outdoor space.
The largest proportion of respondents (over 25%) indicated that the lack of toilet provision was the main barrier preventing them from accessing open space for outdoor recreation. This is consistent with discussion with the peer researchers. It also is an issue which featured prominently in the case studies identified by the researchers.
80% of respondents indicated that they are happy to use the open space which is nearest to them for the purposes of outdoor recreation.
Almost all respondents (96%) indicated that they are able to travel to and from public spaces on their own or independently, for example, walk there on their own or drive themselves. However, analysis shows that the ability to travel independently decreases as age profile increases.
“During the pandemic it became very obvious that those who had access to public space were better able to get out and be active. What’s needed now is better access for older people to public space. This research highlights the importance of asking people what they think that looks like,” said Harkin.
The report recommends that future projects, funding and policy decisions in relation to older people and public spaces take into account the need for on-site physical infrastructure including toilets, handrails and fresh water taps; group-based activities and social connection; safety considerations; transport connectivity; and programme support. All of these create an enabling rather than a disabling environment for everyone – not just older people.
Opportunities and supports are needed to encourage older people’s groups to return to physical activity including the provision of enabling environments both indoors and outdoors and the resources and transport infrastructure to avail of them.