Physical Activity in old Age: Ageing healthily in Place

A hundred years ago or so, the average life expectancy was only thirty years. Today, more and more women and men are celebrating even their 100th birthday. How desirable it is to achieve such a high age depends to a great extent on how we age. No one wants to spend their time between the ages of 80 and 100 bedridden, demented and alone. For many seniors, a familiar environment and social contacts are just as crucial as stable health to living fulfilling and autonomous later years.

These elements are increasingly less provided within families, but instead by people in the neighbourhood as parents and children often now live far away from each other. In this context, civic involvement, such as that provided by the neighbourhood association Nachbarschaftsheim Darmstadt e. V. for more than 70 years, is of growing importance. A total of 60 volunteers and 13 full-time staff work here for the residents in the Bessungen district. The city of Darmstadt financially supports its work, which includes childcare, cultural events and senior sports courses.

In 2019, the Paritätische Wohlfahrtsverband and SAGST also supported Nachbarschaftsheim Darmstadt e. V. as part of the ‘Ageing healthily in place’ project. This project is based on a sponsorship model that brings together volunteers and the elderly from Bessungen. These mini-networks within the district make it possible to break mainly seniors who live alone out of isolation and convince them to try the physical activity programmes offered by the neighbourhood association Nachbarschaftsheim.

“At least that was the case before Corona,” says Managing Director Sandra Freitag. “Currently, it has become much more difficult to reach this target group, and it is far from easy to get them engaged.” That makes it all the more important not to let the elderly down in this unusual situation and at least continue to talk to them on the phone or stop by at regular intervals. “Of course with the necessary physical distancing,” adds Sandra Freitag. “Our sponsors have found creative workarounds and communicate through open windows, for instance, just as you would among neighbours.”