When 87-year-old Derick joined our Active Ageing programme, he didn’t have the strength to even hold up his head. This meant that the former Service Engineer and model-making hobbyist could no longer eat at the table with his family, or look after himself the way he was used to doing.
Despite these challenges, Derick was determined to get some of his old independence back. He joined our Active Ageing programme in spring 2018 and began receiving one-to-one support from Nicki, a HILS exercise instructor who specialises in helping frail older people to become more physically active. In just nine weeks, his family were already seeing a marked improvement in Derick’s ability to sit up and move his head.
‘This time last year dad was drinking from a baby’s feeder cup because he couldn’t lift his head to drink from an ordinary cup,’ says his daughter, Karen. ‘Now when I cut his hair and trim his beard, dad is able to hold his head up so I can get under his chin. Brilliant!’
But the improvements don’t stop there. Derick’s aim is to be able to stand up and take a few steps without the support of a walking frame.
‘We have been working very hard on building up his core strength and leg muscles,’ says Nicki. ‘Derick is now able to stand with virtually straight legs, and as you can see from the photo he has a lot more flexibility and movement in his neck. Derick has also managed to take one hand off the frame when standing, which was an impossible task when we first started. He has even managed to take his first four steps! We both cheered with delight when Derick did this, it was so uplifting to see how happy it made him.’
‘It is so utterly inspiring to see people like Derick refuse to let age, or poor health, prevent them from leading happy and fulfilling lives,’ says HILS Chief Executive, Sarah Wren. She adds: ‘Every day, I hear such wonderful stories where, with a bit of support and lots of determination, our clients are able to regain their independence and start feeling healthier. It really is a privilege to be part of a programme that is helping so many people. A huge well done to Derick, and thank you to his family and to Nicki for supporting him to achieve his aims.’
HILS’ Active Ageing programme is delivered in partnership with Public Health Hertfordshire and Sport England. It is entirely free to anyone over the age of 55 and aims to help them become more physically active, whatever their level of physical mobility. Participants are assessed on their strength and balance before being offered support to match their needs. This may include: weekly one-to-one chair-based exercise or OTAGO sessions for a period of 12 weeks, or help to start attending classes in the local community for four weeks. All our instructors are specially trained to work with older people and deliver the exercise sessions safely.