ukactive has released a new report – ‘Reimagining Ageing’ – which proposes that getting older people to partake in physical activity could save the NHS billions.

In the report it says that by 2030, the number of people in the UK aged 60 and above is estimated to increase to 20 million – a 31 percent increase. However, with this demographic shift comes a forecasted increase in the number of health concerns and disabilities.

One of the crucial points from the report highlights that while life expectancy has increased in the UK, the number of years of healthy life have not and the proportion of life spent in poor health has remained constant.

Recent research from the British Medical Journal states that this poor health seen amongst older is due to a lack or loss of fitness.

This finding lead to ukactive collaborating with Sheffield Hallam University and Datahub to estimate the potential cost savings that could be achieved if more older people were encouraged and supported to be physically active.

From this, the organisations found that around £7.67 billion could be achieved in NHS and healthcare savings if one third of inactive over 55s were supported to be active over the next ten years.

This saving would come as a result of reduced treatment costs from physical inactivity related issues and the associated reduction in GP visits.

To help the NHS make this saving, ukactive has called for organisations from both the healthcare and physical activity sectors to work together to implement strategies which will encourage older people to increase their physical activity.

The report looks at a number of case studies from different organisations, such as Nuffield Health, Serco and Swim England, who have introduced methods which have effectively got older people to participate in physical activity to help put forward some suggestions.

From its own research and the case studies, ukactive proposes some different ways to help achieve this NHS saving:

  • The Government should support initiatives like Sport England and ukactive’s Community Wellness Hubs programme to present cost-saving opportunities for local authorities
  • The Government should invest in and support the physical activity to meet the needs of the ageing population
  • The establishment of an ‘Activity Therapy’ service, developed in collaboration with the NHS, healthcare professionals, volunteer services and the physical activity sector. It should harness the expertise of the physical activity sector and the reach of the health and social care system to embed physical activity throughout every relevant care pathway of the NHS
  • Physical activity and fitness operators should be supported to deliver a greater quantity and range of beginner and specialist activity classes, tailored toward the needs of older people in the local community

The hope is that these actions, amongst others, will help integrate physical activity into older people’s lives in a sustainable, effective way, which will positively impact on their health and wellbeing as well as the future of the NHS.

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