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PROVIDING PHYSICAL ACTIVITY FOR ELDERLY PERSONS IN THE COMMUNITY
The programme provides water-based recreation to senior citizens who are unable to participate in the more traditional exercise programmes, in a safe and comfortable environment throughout communities in Trinidad and Tobago.
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The Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) Elderly Aquatic Programme is part of a larger programme named “Shape the Community”. An important part of the Shape the Community programme is the focus on recreation for the elderly with the primary objective being to improve their mental and physical health. Too often this age group is neglected by the community because of false beliefs and misconceptions about their age and abilities, and not enough emphasis is placed on maintaining healthy lifestyles. Activities need to be designed to take into consideration the physical capability of the elderly. The sessions are conducted twice per week for durations of one hour each, by a certified aquatic and therapeutic instructor. The programme also includes therapy sessions which are run in conjunction with the aqua aerobics.
In a society where elderly citizens are often seen as weak, frail and inactive, there is the need to design an activity that caters to both physical and psychological enhancement. The provision of water-based recreation is geared towards those persons who, because of their physical limitations, are unable to participate in even low-impact activities. The aquatic programme allows individuals to exercise without putting excess strain on joints or muscles.
Part of a broader programme
The Elderly Aquatics Programme is part of a larger TTOC programme, “Shape the Community”. The programme was developed to fill gaps in the development of sport in communities, as well as to encourage the development of the communities through sport. It intends to achieve positive changes in the community in which it is implemented, to increase participation, contribute to the quality of life, and assist in individual or community development.
Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee
Promote sport and physical activity
The programme promotes the values and benefits of exercise for the elderly. It provides an exercise programme that is accessible to senior citizens who are unable to participate in more traditional exercise programmes.
Improve public health and well-being
The programme seeks to establish effective and accessible opportunities for senior citizens in communities with pools that allow them to manage sedentary illnesses. Additionally, the social interaction can help decrease feelings of depression and isolation, and progress in aquatic activities can to lead to re-establishing independence and improved self-esteem.
Word of mouth is the main communication tool. The local chapters of the Diabetes Association and nurses attached to the Community Health Centre have also been instrumental in informing senior citizens in the community.
Evaluation takes place via participant questionnaires, where improvement in their quality of life is ascertained. Medical tests are carried out regularly, and these measurements are used as a baseline to monitor the participants. This also enables instructors to adapt the programme to individual needs and make recommendations for improvement.