This blog was contributed by Jackie Hayhoe, Fit as a Fiddle Portfolio Manager at Age UK.
Fit as a Fiddle, funded by the Big Lottery Wellbeing Fund Programme for £15.1 million, has been running for just over five years. It’s a holistic approach to improve the health and wellbeing of older people. 26 projects have been delivered in 9 English regions in partnership with over 400 community organisations, including 100 local Age UKs.
So why was the programme needed? In developing the programme research was used which identified that older people who were not physically active were less able to do every-day tasks, for example 12% of over 65s could not walk outside on their own and 9% of over 65s could not manage stairs unaided. The research also identified that older people themselves felt that making a contribution to society, such as volunteering, was good for their mental wellbeing.
Fit as a Fiddle offers participants opportunities to engage on a variety of levels and in different ways and even when taking part in one particular activity, participants often speak of numerous benefits. While Fit as a Fiddle doesn’t provide specific mental health services, one of its aims has been to build on the link between physical activity and healthy eating, and improved mental wellbeing. The positive mental wellbeing outcomes from the programme are clearly evident in the evaluation survey and qualitative data in the recently finalised programme evaluation.
Over 375,00 older people have benefited from the programme by attending a range of healthy eating and physical activity sessions, from Tai Chi to Nordic Walking. Across the country we have seen new and innovative ways to deliver activity sessions to older people from Wii to Nordic walking. Fit as a Fiddle has enabled 274,776 older people to take part in physical activity and 183,111 older people are better informed about physical activity.
Audrey is an example of someone who has benefited from taking part in Fit as a Fiddle. Audrey had carers several times a day and suffered from depression after losing her mobility. A Fit as a Fiddle volunteer agreed to visit Audrey who clapped her hands with delight at the prospect of a regular visitor who is not a carer or professional. The relationship is working wonderfully, Audrey enjoys her visits and now goes out in a wheelchair when she feels up to it and is much more confident.
We are delighted that Fit as a Fiddle has been successful in securing an additional £3.6m from the Big Lottery Fund Wellbeing Programme to build on the learning from the last 5 years. The new funding will help us to further address the challenge of developing high quality, inclusive and integrated programmes that help older people to stay healthy and active as well as encouraging their contribution to the community, whilst demonstrating the value of such programmes to the health sector.