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‘Wellbeing’ is the newest buzzword in the arts, and arts charity Salamander Tandem is proving that a programme of movement can help older people improve their quality of life. Esther Harris explains

Photo showing John Moult as he celebrates the impact of movement classes on his bowls

People over 55 don’t want to just live for longer, they want to be healthier and happier too. Extensive research has established that wellbeing is associated not only with longevity, but also with quality of life. The Government’s Foresight Report on Mental Capital and Well-being  identified five key behaviours in this area – the ability to connect, be active, take notice, keep learning and give.

Based on these five ways to wellbeing, Salamanda Tandem designed a movement programme which improved the confidence of members of West Bridgford Bowling Club in Nottingham. Due to hip, shoulder and knee operations, a number of members were struggling to play the game and were fast losing their confidence on the green. The club asked yoga teacher, dancer and artistic director of Salamanda Tandem, Isabel Jones, to work with them. She explained: “Salamanda Tandem works with many disabled and non-disabled people and we always put quality of life and well-being at the heart of any project. We quickly realised there was a wider opportunity here to ‘enable’ older people to learn something new, take notice of their bodies and connect with and support one another.”

The 12-week course combined the best of yoga and Pilates. These were new to almost all of the members but recent research by the University of York has proven their effectiveness in helping recovery from back pain and operations such as hip and knee replacement, which many of the bowlers had experienced. The class gave them a gentle but low impact work out and raised their physical awareness.

As the programme got underway and members got a feel for the movements, they reported the most amazing improvements. “Learning about movement and our bodies is so relevant to bowling,” said member Florence Goodall, and bowler John Moult said: “My posture has improved and I’ve found gardening and DIY easier. As someone who has been unable to drive I was able to get back to bowls and get behind a wheel again. It was really quite revelatory. I’ve also found myself doing leg stretches when I’m sitting watching TV.”

The programme had a secondary positive effect. The club has 120 members between the age of 60 and 90 and bowling is a huge part of their lives. Many can feel bereft in the winter when they are not active and taking part, and meeting up with other members to take part in the programme, and offer support and encouragement through the winter months, has had a very positive effect. “Their community needn’t stop when the season ends anymore,” said Isabel.

The club has been delighted with the results of the programme, which has turned out to be not so much about improving club results – although that always puts a smile on the Chairman’s face – but rather savouring the moment on the green and enjoying the quality of movement that could be achieved.

Club Secretary David King Taylor would like to see more bowling clubs follow West Bridgford’s example. “Isabel managed to get a local council grant to help fund our movement programme – so that the cost of classes could be an affordable £2 per session for members,” he explains.“With help like that, there is no reason why an initiative like this couldn’t go nationwide.”

Isabel is keen to challenge other groups and communities to find new ways to broaden the horizons of their members. She said: “I think we have proved that if people put their heads together and consider what their members need and what they might enjoy, with a little creative thinking, many of the arts and movement techniques could be adapted so that a whole range of new people can enjoy it.” Zumba for the over 65s anyone? Watch this space...

John Moult celebrates the impact of movement classes on his bowls


Five Ways to Wellbeing

Connect with the people around you. With family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. At home, work, school or in your local community. Think of these as the cornerstones of your life and invest time in developing them

Be active Go for a walk or run. Step outside. Cycle. Play a game. Garden. Dance. Exercising makes you feel good. Most importantly, discover a physical activity you enjoy and that suits your level of mobility and fitness

Take notice Be curious. Catch sight of the beautiful. Remark on the unusual. Notice the changing seasons. Savour the moment, whether you are walking to work, eating lunch or talking to friends

Keep learning Try something new. Rediscover an old interest. Sign up for that course. Take on a different responsibility at work. Learning new things will make you more confident as well as being fun

Give Do something nice for a friend, or a stranger. Thank someone. Smile. Look out, as well as in. Seeing yourself, and your happiness, linked to the wider community, can be incredibly rewarding and creates connections with the people around you.

For more information on a bespoke movement programme, contact Salamanda Tandem. W www.salamanda-tandem.org t 0845 293 2989

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Image of Esther Harris