Enid Bowen sits on a chair, lifting weights with her arms and legs, rolling a ball in all directions with her feet and squeezing a rubber ring between her hands.
She laughs and chats as she goes through the fitness routine in her weekly group chair exercise class at HealthLinks Gippsland, looking nowhere near her age…94 years in June.
Enid, who played tennis and did aqua aerobics until she was 83, was referred to the free Healthy Ageing program for Latrobe Valley residents aged 65 years and over because her feet were playing up and she has found it difficult to get around.
Commissioned by Gippsland PHN, the program is one of a number that supports senior Australians to live at home for as long as possible with the help of early intervention activities and models of care for chronic disease management. These activities and models of care, such as those at HealthLinks Gippsland, are designed to promote healthy ageing and reduce pressure on local health services.
And for Edith, the program has come at the right time. “I’ve really seen a big improvement,” she said. “I have found the problem with my feet really frustrating because I have always kept active, despite my ailments. I want to be independent as long as I can.”
Almost 12 months ago, Doug Murray, 79, experienced an unexpected medical issue which left him struggling to walk. With the help of walking aids, he has been attending the Healthy Ageing chair exercise class for six weeks and after a reassessment, will continue for another six weeks.
A former judo competitor, his goal is to get to the Australian Judo Championships in Queensland in June. “I’m determined to make it,” Doug said.
Gippsland PHN Acting Chief Executive Officer, Angela Jacob, said healthy ageing helped prevent chronic disease, improve mental health, decrease risk of falls and improve cognitive function which is why it is a national primary care priority area.
She said the Gippsland PHN Health Needs Assessment assisted with identifying priority areas for services and programs for older people in the region.
“It is estimated that 23.6% of the Gippsland population are aged 65 years or older, compared to 15.8% in Victoria,” Mrs Jacob said. “By 2030, 28.1% of the Gippsland population is expected to be aged 65 years or older.
“These early intervention services are essential in supporting this cohort to look after their health but also reduce the pressure on local health services.”
HealthLinks Gippsland Program Coordinator, Kathy Lummis, said people could be referred to the free program run at the Traralgon clinic by their health practitioner or self-refer.
There are two streams available. After an initial assessment, people might have individual treatment with an osteopath or physiotherapist, typically for people restricted by pain limiting movement. The second stream is for people who don’t need “hands-on” treatment, instead benefitting from exercises to improve balance, strength and coordination.
“We design our sessions to target chronic disease management, to minimise deterioration and keep people as active and functional as possible,” Kathy said. “People can come to us with a range of problems including osteoarthritis, neck pain, Parkinson’s Disease, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and more.
“It is important to recognise when we need support and reach out earlier. It means better outcomes as it’s easier to fix little problems than a big one. There are lots of great treatment strategies that can be implemented in the early stages of disease management.”
Find out more about the early intervention initiatives, including the Healthy Ageing program, at https://gphn.org.au/what-we-do/programs/programs-aged-care/early-intervention-services/
Main picture: Ninety-four-year-old Enid Bowen (front) and daughter Claire in the health ageing program at HealthLinks in Traralgon
Above left, Osteopath, Laura Foat, works with Enid Bowen, 94, on some gentle exercises. Right, Doug Murray, 79, wants to get fit enough to travel to the Australian Judo Championships in Brisbane.