In your own words, tell us about your project.
Siel Bleu Ireland offers life enhancing exercise programmes to older adults and people living with chronic disease with the goal of improving their physical, social and mental wellbeing. We all know the benefits of exercise when we are younger, but the importance of exercise for older adults can often be underestimated. We are here to change that by making exercise affordable and accessible for anyone who can't take part in traditional exercise classes for any number of physical or cognitive reasons. We go where we are needed, offering group exercise classes in nursing homes, day care centres, community centres, with Patient Groups and one to one sessions in private homes. Our team is comprised of highly skilled and educated physical trainers who hold a minimum a degree in Sports Science or a related field. When we combine the range of programmes, delivered by our expert and empathetic staff, they result in real physical, social and cognitive improvements to the wellbeing of older people and people living with chronic disease.
Why did you do this work?
One of the greatest successes of our society is that, due to modern medicine we are living longer. According to the 2016 Census the over 65s population has increased by 19.1% since 2011. As our population ages, we are facing an increase in sedentary lifestyles, chronic disease, social isolation and an increase in falls and fractures amongst other issues. We cannot guarantee the years which have been added to our lives are full and independent.
The average cost of a fracture occurring fall is €50,000 per person. The overall cost of falls in Ireland is set to reach €1billion by 2020and €2billion by 2030. Exercise has proven to reduce the rate of falls in community dwelling older adults by 21%. Our own research has shown that our programmes prevent a fracture occurring fall for nursing home residents every 5 years.
There is a simple method to help counteract some of the issues relating to an ageing population - exercise!
At Siel Bleu, we have spent years perfecting a means to tackle inactive ageing. By offering a wide range of programmes, delivered by professional and empathetic trainers, in locations suitable for the participants we now work with 5000 people a week and our scope is increasing week on week.
What was the impact or outcome of your project?
We currently work with over 5000 older adults and people living with chronic disease across Ireland. Through our exercise programmes we are helping to improve their physical, social and mental wellbeing. In 2012 we conducted the European Commision funded study called HAPPIER, which examined the efficacy of our programme on nursing home residents and staff. It showed our exercise classes improve people's abilities to move, feed and wash themselves as well as reducing falls and improving psychological prosperity. Our award winning Exercise, COPD & Me programme has proven to help improve aerobic capacity of participants, resulting in reduced reliance on oxygen. But, we always say, the success of Siel Bleu lies in the success of our participants; it is the impact on their lives which is the most important. Whether it's 73 year old, oesophageal cancer survivor, Jennifer Sweeney who's health suffered drastically from the effects of radiation treatment. After only 6 months of one to one classes she was able to do 150 squats in a single session. She credits Siel Bleu with making her "feel alive" again. Or it's 77 year old, Thelma Foley, who was in and our of hospital multiple times a week due to complications from her COPD. Over the two years which Thelma has been participating in our Exercise, COPD & Me class she has only had one short hospital stay and no longer requires oxygen at rest, giving a major boost to her self esteem and confidence. We have hundreds more stories like these of the incredible impact, simple exercise can have on the life of an older adult,
Do you have any tips or advice for similar projects?
The best piece of advise we could give is to make sure you have the right people working on the front lines with you. Candidates may have all the right qualifications on their CV, but if they don't have the right personality then they won't get very far. Older adults have seen it all and know probably much more than we ever will. To ensure the best for them we have to make sure we have the right people delivering programmes. They must be kind, empathetic and non patronising while also being encouraging, a complicated but important mix. In a service like our, that is the most important element.
Which Sustainable Development Goals does your work link to?
Goal 3. Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
Location of Project
Carla Piera FitzGerald