“Older people are the main users of health and social care services…. [W]e are fully supportive of all preventative measures which result in better health in old age.”

Alex Mair, Chief Executive British Geriatrics Society

As part of its ongoing multifarious community outreach programmes, BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, UK (BAPS), hosted a health fair on Sunday 20 September 2009 at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, London, to help educate the elderly in keeping fit and healthy.

The UK’s Department of Health launched an initiative in July to “ensure that older people can stay fit and healthy for much longer so that they can live fulfilled, independent lives in their retirement”, as explained then by Care Services Minister Phil Hope MP. In keeping with the Government’s theme, the aim of the event was “Keeping the Elderly Healthy”.

The fair was inaugurated with a welcome speech by Dr Mayank Shah, head of BAPS Health Services. Chief Guest, Ms Anne Macfarlane OBE, a leading Disability Rights and Equalities Consultant, then addressed the audience explaining the importance of living an independent life despite the illnesses and disabilities associated with old age.

Experts from a variety of fields spoke and conducted interactive forums based on various aspects of a healthier lifestyle during the elderly years of life, a summary of which is detailed below:

Associate Specialist in Elderly Medicine Dr Babalal Depala discussed how to stay physically active in old age.

Dr Binita Jani, a consultant in Elderly Medicine at The Hammersmith Hospital, explained how to maintain mental health in old age by being mentally active and highlighted the sources of help available to those who suffer from mental health problems in old age.

Audiologist Mrs Sona Patel spoke about hearing loss in the elderly and highlighted common hearing problems along with their causes and methods of treatment.

Miss Mona Thacker, an optometrist, spoke about symptoms of common eye illnesses among the elderly – including cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration – and methods of care and treatment, especially for those who are diabetic.

In addition to the lectures, a series of workshops provided an opportunity to enhance the learning within a practical and interactive environment.

Workshop 1: Optimal sight and hearing

This was run by an audiologist and an optometrist. Attendees were offered an opportunity to have their hearing tested and discuss personal hearing and sight issues. Importantly, attendees were made aware of the array of products designed to help those with impaired vision and hearing.

Workshop 2: Keeping physically active

A physiotherapist demonstrated practical tips and examples of suitable exercises. A question-and-answer session was organised in which experts offered further practical, tailored advice.

Workshop 3: Keeping mentally active

This was organised by members of the charity Brent Mind. A short talk outlining common mental health problems was followed by group discussions in which attendees shared experiences and gave each other tips on how to keep mentally active.

Cooking demonstrations

In collaboration with the British Heart Foundation Social Cooking Project, two demonstrations on healthy, low fat vegetarian recipes were performed. The first was by celebrity chef Ms Anjum Anand, of the BBC’s “Indian Food Made Easy” programme. The second demonstration was led by celebrity dietician Azmina Govindji of the BBC’s “The One Show” and ITV’s “This Morning”.

The fair proved a great success among both the attendees and presenters. It provided valuable information and guidance to almost 150 elderly men and women to help them tackle health conditions at an earlier stage.

Click on the respective links to learn more about the UK Department of Health’s programme for keeping older people fit and healthy and the British Government’s vision for Building a Society for All Ages.

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