Active+, one of New Zealand’s largest multi-disciplinary rehabilitation suppliers, is busting the myth that retirement is all about putting your feet up and taking it easy. Instead, the health and wellness brand is calling for older Kiwis to get more active – not less – if they want to enjoy the benefits of a long, fun-filled retirement.

By 2051, there will be 1.18 million people aged 65 and over in New Zealand, a leap of 165 percent since 1999. At that stage, older people are expected to make up 26 percent of the New Zealand population. Some sources estimate that healthcare costs will have increased by almost 100 percent by 2030.

“Our population is ageing fast, with a proliferation of health problems. It has long been assumed such problems were directly caused by ageing, and could, therefore, be neither prevented nor treated,” said Kath Broad, an Active+ Physiotherapist, and Clinic Director at Active+ Dominion Road.

“However, numerous studies have shown that ageing by itself is not a cause of major health problems until people are in their mid-90s. In fact, the problems we’ve ascribed to ageing are due to disease – much of it preventable – such as loss of fitness and negative attitudes to growing older.”

Active+ has recognised this and developed a number of services, which can be either ACC or privately funded, to enable older Kiwis to maintain their health and fitness. These include Pilates and yoga classes, physiotherapy, dietitian consultations, counselling and personal training.

“Joining a group exercise class at a physio clinic is well worth considering,” said Broad.

“These are different to general community-based ones because they are led by physiotherapists. Physios are able to recognise and diagnose many movement difficulties and are the best qualified for adapting exercises to suit all abilities. They’re a great choice if you’re getting older and unsure about how to boost your activity and fitness levels.”

“A lot of people have never been to a gym, and don’t want to go or are afraid that they may hurt themselves. This is where exercise classes can be useful. The environment is more targeted to people who may not be as physically capable, or simply need some additional support.”

As well as the obvious fitness benefits, Kath points out that physio led exercises can reduce the risk of falls, which can result in older adults incurring serious injuries – even leading to hospitalisation.

“Numerous studies have shown that working on strength and balance can reduce the risk of falls,” she said.

“Physios are able to detect early difficulties with movement, strength and balance, and prescribe exercises to assist. This could be easy home exercises, such as calf raises and one-leg stands – or muscle-strengthening routines, like lifting light weights and doing yoga.”

The loss of function and resilience associated with ageing can often be influenced by activity: physical, mental and social.

There is a perception that that ill-health and sedentary behaviour are a natural part of growing older, but that doesn’t have to be the case,” said Broad.

“It’s important to support older Kiwis to maintain an active lifestyle, so they can live healthy and independent lives, well into their retirements.

“At Active+, we are continually examining how we can better support seniors with their health and fitness, and look forward to introducing more services in the future.”