Forever Active is a charity that organises exercise classes for the over-50s across Cambridgeshire. These include Strength and Balance classes, Pilates, Yoga, Line Dancing, Exercise to Music, and Tai Chi, plus some opportunities for members to take part in sports such as tennis and badminton. We have some 700 members and use the services of some 26 self-employed instructors who between them deliver 70 classes every week. They are held in all parts of Cambridgeshire (except the Huntingdon District which runs its own similar programme). The charity provides training for the instructors who must have qualifications appropriate to the classes they deliver and to work with the over 50s. Total attendances at classes in the year 2018-2019 were 25,865, compared with 13,832 three years previously. Volunteer Board of 8 members carry out a great deal of ‘back-room’ work alongside the development officer who works part time to support the instructors and running of classes.
The Effects of Coronavirus
Since March when the country went into lock down we have been unable to run our weekly venue classes and as such we as a charity have seen a dramatic drop in income, but more importantly in the meantime, members who are all over 55, most 70 – 90 and more vulnerable to Coronavirus, have been stuck at home, getting isolated and inactive leading to an increase risk of falling. We carried out a survey in May, both online (300 people) and on paper (41). We know that at least 500 members have access to IT and are willing to use it for exercise online whether that be at a live class or pre-recorded.
What we will do with the money
Funds we raise will be used to support the core funding of the charity, to help us while our income is reduced, and we do everything we can to rebuild the income. We are now doing three things to look to bring income in while we can’t run classes in the normal way; developing a number of online classes mainly with Pilates and yoga live with members usual instructors, setting up a series of pre-recorded classes for strength and balance as progressive classes to support what people would have been doing at venues, as well as looking at getting a few classes up and running with restriction in place to support those that can’t access on online resources and are happy to get out to classes. Although these new ways of working will bring in some income, it will take a while to build income up and won’t be at the level of income of before, meanwhile we have had to spend more money on set up as well as paying our regular core costs with limited income. These activities are needed because many will not be back at venue classes for a while, and a long time before we are back to 70 classes. The funds are vital to give us space to develop our online offer, which will be vital for some people for a long time to come both for physical and mental health to keep active and connected to the outside world. It will also allow time to work on the logistics of returning to venue classes safely and cover losses in income due to small class sizes and number of classes both online and at venues. This will be much needed funding to get us back up and running and delivering activities differently and adapting to the ‘new normal’.
The importance of being active as we get older by one of our members:
Exercise Class by Janet Harper, member of the Christchurch Strength and Balance Class
I was always a bit of a sporty person during my younger years, but due to family commitments my sporting activities got put on the shelf, believing I could always resume them at a later date. Now I am well and truly retired and although I consider myself to still be quite an active person, I had resigned myself to the fact that my sporting days were well and truly over. Earlier this year, it was brought to my attention that an exercise group was commencing on a Wednesday morning at Christchurch Community Centre. Having suppressed my sadness with the realisation that I am getting old and not as fit as I used to be, I thought I would give this exercise class a try (after all, they keep telling us that exercise is good for you). It‘s free for the first lesson, so I felt that I had nothing to lose.
Kathleen introduced herself as the instructor, and she soon had us doing some gentle chair-based, exercises and stretches, plus a few moves to increase balance. I came away thinking it was all a bit tame and not really for me. I couldn’t see what it was doing for me. However, against my initial judgement, I decided I would give it a second chance. This time Kathleen decided to step it up just a little, and I had second thoughts about giving it up just yet. I believe I must have attended about 8 classes to date now. The majority of the exercises are chair-based, coupled with some standing balance and coordination moves. Most of it is to music. Over the weeks, the exercises are becoming more and more challenging and surprisingly I can certainly move much more freely than when I started. Kathleen is a very enthusiastic teacher who infuses energy into the group. Each week she introduces us to new exercises, and along the way she explains which muscles are being worked on and why.
Surprisingly, I have noticed that the sciatica, which bothered me most when walking, has now disappeared. And, after 20 years away from the game, I have just taken up golf again. So at least one of the sports interests I’d had, has now been taken down from that shelf. Although I can’t see myself playing badminton, or fell-walking again, but after just a short time I am beginning to realise the benefits that this exercise class is bringing. I just thought I would write this, just in case there are those of you that feel you cannot engage in a routine that gets you out of breath, and that you are worried that you may not be able to keep-up with the others.
The class is designed for people with various abilities to assist them in maximising movement and balance. I also wanted to share how I and others are benefiting from this group and to urge others who feel that they are not as mobile as they use to be, to come along and give it a try.