“How much does it cost?”

I’m at Oxford City Council’s Older People’s Day on 30th September, encouraging older people to take up table tennis. I know they’ll want to know that they can afford it.

For Cowley Table Tennis it’s great value at £2 an hour or £3 for two hours, tea and biscuits included. But it’s not only about money. Whether it’s table tennis or any other activity, if we want older people to be more active, we need to think about what other costs are involved.Older People's Day 2015

  • What will it cost to get there? Venues need to be easily accessible on foot,
    by car – with cheap or free parking nearby – or public transport. Otherwise it costs too much physical effort and stress before people even get to the activity.
  • What will it cost to walk in the door? Some people embrace new situations without a care in the world. A lot of us feel nervous when joining a new activity. Older people coming to something new on their own – perhaps on their own for the first time in years – may well feel that way: Will they fit in? What if they’re not good enough? It costs mental energy to walk in as a newcomer, so it’s important to give a warm welcome.
  • Will it hurt? Physical exercise is good for us, but it’s not cost-free. We get tired when we push ourselves. Muscles ache. And elderly bodies are not as flexible or as quick to recover as younger ones. That means giving opportunities for short breaks and encouraging people to pace themselves, rather than expecting everyone to follow the same schedule.

Most days I feel 35 or 40. Then I step off the train to the platform and realise my limbs have lost all elasticity. I don’t bounce any more. Old people just hit the floor. Barry Norman The Observer Sept 29 2013

Life costs us more when we’re old

“I feel just the same as I did when I was 30”, many older people say. We feel just as capable. Often, we are just as capable. We see many stories of older people achieving great things, like the 92 year-old marathon runner, the 71 year-old rock star or 80 year-old actors.

What we don’t see is how long it takes them to recover. William “Captain Kirk” Shatner talks candidly about getting older in his film Captains. We see him full of life and energy in front of an enthusiastic audience, but he points out he’s stayed in bed all day beforehand to prepare for it.

The question is not, can someone do this or can’t they, but how much it costs them and what will help them to afford it. After all, there’s a cost to not doing things, too. Not being mentally stimulated, not socialising or having any physical activity – those really could cost us.

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