The Growing Older and Living Danger (GOLD) initiative of the Brisbane City Council offers health and wellbeing activities to residents over 50.
The program began in 1997 and has proven popular with more than 30,000 people participating in the 2405 classes that were run in the 2015-2016 financial year.
The classes in the GOLD program are diverse to suit the many different needs and abilities of the participants, however, all aim to reduce chronic disease, social isolation and promote physical activity.
“Some of the most popular activities in the program include kayaking, tai chi, yoga, gardening, rock climbing and art classes,” Council said.
A 2011 report by the ABS focusing on people 65 years and over showed that one quarter of older people live alone in a private dwelling and that it was far more common for women to live alone, than men (32% – 17%).
These statistics demonstrate how beneficial community activities are to bringing people together to focus on various aspects of their overall health.
According to the Mayo Clinic there are numerous benefits to having friends. Friends are said to;
- Increase your sense of belonging and purpose
- Boost your happiness and reduce your stress
- Improve your self-confidence and self-worth
- Help you cope with traumas, such as divorce, serious illness, job loss or the death of a loved one
- Encourage you to change or avoid unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as excessive drinking or lack of exercise
(Source: Mayo Clinic, 2014)
Additionally, a report by SANE Australia states that, “Researchers increasingly understand isolation as a major contributing factor to ill health, and early death.”
Therefore, to have varied and enjoyable community activities open to people over the age of 50, including those who live alone, is very valuable for reducing social isolation.
The Gentle Fitness class held at Coorparoo on Wednesday hosted more than 25 GOLD participants.
Class instructor Louise, states that Brisbane residents over 50 are so lucky to have the GOLD program. She says the participants form really good friendships and if someone doesn’t show up, their friends will call them and check up on them or if someone is unwell, all the classmates sign a card for them.
Margo began the GOLD program four years ago and enjoys the dancing, stretching and balance activities.
“The classes give me a good sense of wellbeing. I really enjoy the health aspects of them” Margo said.
Margo’s friend stated that she was happy and feels more alive since becoming involved in the GOLD program.
Another participant stood out in the Gentle Fitness class slightly more than others. Alan, the only male in the class has been in the GOLD program since 2009 after he was recommended to it following a major surgery.
“I don’t like the Zumba but I like the weights” he said.
Alan also does Tai Chi on Monday and says some days he can do it, but some days he can’t.
Another participant in the Gentle Fitness class has been attending for many years and Louise said that she is now 89, the eldest of the participants in her class.
Louise explained that the class is a lot more to the participants then just a health and fitness activity.
“They do the class, go out for coffee and chat about their day” Louise said.
Bev Wilkinson, who runs a mental health activity group states that Brisbane’s GOLD program can be a lifeline for older people.
Bev explains that the number and variety of activities available to over 50’s in Brisbane is fantastic, however, the issue of social isolation may prevent some people from participating in the classes.
“How do you get a (socially isolated) person to participate when they have no idea that there are programs out there?”
“It is important that their family takes time out to see if mum, dad, grandma or granddad is ok and that they assist there loved ones to get involved in an activity that they enjoy” Bev said.
Watch the report on the Gentle Fitness class below;