Ensuring fitness of Bramley’s elderly isn’t forgotten in lockdown


Words: Jo Fiddes

Getting (or staying) fit in the middle of a pandemic is tricky!

It’s even trickier if you are shielding, elderly or vulnerable, as there are understandable anxieties about venturing outdoors – meaning that even walking in the local park may be out of bounds. Add to that the recent poor weather and you can see why exercising at home is the only option for some.

How to motivate people to engage in home exercise to boost their physical and mental wellbeing, was the challenge Your Back Yard, working with Bramley Elderly Action, set themselves.

Their joint aim was to ensure elderly people weren’t forgotten or overlooked – and after a lot of hard work and organisation they switched their activity classes for older adults onto an online platform.

Your Back Yard Director, Tony Mullin, said:

“While it was quite tough going at the start, it has gone incredibly well, with an average attendance of over 25 people attending yoga, tai chi, Zumba and seated yoga classes.

“It’s been a real joint effort – working with 100% Digital and Bramley Elderly Action, we’ve also supported eight older adults from Bramley to get online, with one to one digital support from six fantastic student volunteers from Leeds University.”

The project and classes aim to positively impact both physical and mental wellbeing, and the post exercise Zoom cafe has proven to be very popular. More than ever, some people are feeling the effects of social isolation and the chance to have a good chat after the exercise class is really helping.

This aspect of the project particularly resonated with Leeds West Labour MP Rachel Reeves, who teamed up with Conservative MP Seema Kennedy to carry on the work of their murdered Westminster colleague, Jo Cox, as part of a Loneliness Commission.

Ms Cox warned that social isolation was seriously damaging people’s health, income levels and happiness.

“Loneliness is a social epidemic and this has been brought even more sharply into focus throughout the pandemic. Initiatives such as this one are hugely valuable, as they address both the physical and social needs of participants,” said Ms Reeves.

This project has been supported by funding from the National Lottery – but more funding is required to ensue the project continues until mid-summer.

Sydney O’Connor, Project Manager at Your Back Yard, added:

“We want to continue running the classes and café three times a week – they have been a real lifeline and we have been able to reach a large number of people.

“Whilst ultimately our aim is that the classes are self-funding, we still need an extra £2-3,000 to grow our numbers and ensure no one is digitally excluded. To achieve this, we are launching a Crowdfunding campaign.

“We really think online classes, which in many ways are a lot more accessible for older adults than face to face ones, could be a silver lining to this Covid cloud.”

If you’d like to contribute to this fundraiser, you can do so here.


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