Sitting and remaining stationary create significant health risks for older people. The risks are highest in bed rest, which reduces muscular strength among people aged 75 and over by 3–5% during the first week. Daily physical activity should be part of the organisational culture in sheltered housing and home care services. It provides resources both for older people themselves and for nursing staff.

On 17 June 2015, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health published national recommendations to reduce sedentary time. In addition to people’s own everyday life choices, changes need to be made in society as a whole.

“Lying in bed is more dangerous for older people than vigorous physical exercise.”

Daily physical activity and strength and balance exercises form a key part of frail older people’s rehabilitation. Cutting down on sitting improves older people’s mobility, autonomy and quality of life, if carried out on their own terms.

“Lying in bed is more dangerous for older people than vigorous physical exercise. It is essential to avoid unnecessary bed rest and ‘over-helping’ and to provide meaningful activities throughout the day. Inspiring leadership, adequate staffing levels and structures, and creative working methods help add more physical activity to everyday life,” says Line Manager Elina Karvinen from the Age Institute.

The Age Institute coordinates a network entitled ‘Older people’s sheltered housing and home care services in motion’, which is planning to pilot a change in working methods in 23 sheltered housing units and in two home care areas. Networking is part of the National Policy Programme for Older People’s Physical Activity.

How to increase physical activity in everyday life?

• Work with the older person to identify good reasons to get up and start moving.
• Support active mobility with suitable assistive devices.
• Encourage independent activity, even if it takes more time at first.
• Stand by and give support – even a little physical activity is beneficial.
• Together with the older person, work out a stimulating daily routine that increases physical activity.

Age Institute
Elina Karvinen, Programme Manager , p. 040 530 2603, eli­na.kar­vi­nen(a)ikains­ti­tuut­
Markku Holmi, Planner, p. 040 081 4834, mark­ku.hol­mi(at)ikains­ti­tuut­

Picture: Age Institute / Ossi Gustafsson

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