Fitbits help older people in Torfaen see the benefit of exercise
Age Connects Torfaen wanted to encourage users of its day centre to get more active. Fitbits on loan from Digital Communities Wales inspired people to get out of their chairs and move more – it even inspired some gentle competition!
Age Connects Torfaen is a charity for older people which aims to reduce poverty, loneliness and isolation. It runs activities for people with reduced health and mobility and as well as a specialist dementia day service.
Manager Emma Wootten was already running IT classes each week for the centre users, as well as a walking group. When she realised that some people attended both sessions, she saw the opportunity to dovetail both activities through the use of Fitbits.
Digital Communities Wales was able to loan 10 Fitbits to the organisation. These were given to members of the walking group who weren’t already coming to the IT classes. Emma hoped that enabling them to use technology in a fun way, knowing that support was on hand through the IT Classes, would give people the confidence to “give it a go” and encourage some healthy competition.
The people given the Fitbits were given a daily steps target that they could reach during the sessions at the day centre.
Previously people tended to participate in activities whilst staying seated in a chair. However, once the Fitbits were introduced and clients started to see the counter increase, it encouraged them to stand up to gain more steps. Emma found that the Fitbits were even used by people with poor mobility as they wanted to be involved and were mesmerised by the way such a device could track their movement.
Emma says, “We found that the Fitbits encouraged team work; it was a different way for staff and volunteers to interact with service users. It offered a simple way for service users to understand the impact of exercise. It also provided a fun way to get older people exercising, as they could recognise the immediate benefit.
“The sessions showed how a Fitbit could play a key role in improving the health of older people. We also found that the Fitbit was a good way at maintaining an older person’s mobility and even has the potential to improve their social interaction.
“Our only observation was that for some clients, the screens were too small. Many clients expressed their difficulty in seeing them.”