Curtin Uni and Amana Living team up for research into benefits of physical activity for seniors

Amana Living Moline Village resident and likely research participant, Ila Banks, and Curtin researcher Cecilie Thogersen-Ntoumani.
Amana Living Moline Village resident and likely research participant, Ila Banks, and Curtin researcher Cecilie Thogersen-Ntoumani.

RESEARCHERS hope to prove walking and physical activity enhances the mental health of the elderly in a collaborative research project between Curtin University and Amana Living.

The research project was designed to get older people moving, enhance their wellbeing and improve their quality of life.

Commencing this month, the Residents in Action Trial will promote walking among older people living in Amana Living retirement villages with the goal to encourage greater physical activity, reduce sitting and enhance mental health among residents.

Researchers from Curtin University will recruit active residents as ambassadors for the project and train them in using motivation techniques to support their peers.

It is hoped this approach will ensure the residents learn skills they can use to sustain an active and healthy life over the longer term.

Project lead Cecilie Thogersen-Ntoumani said older people who are inactive are at higher risk of chronic disease.

“If we can encourage more physical activity with peer support, we can potentially have a significant impact on their health and wellbeing, reduce loneliness, and delay or prevent movement into residential aged care,” she said.

“Based on previous research, we know social support is critical for people who aren’t physically active. We’ll examine how this theory works in a retirement community as well as investigating the impact of the physical environment, such as proximity to parks.”

Amana chief executive Stephanie Buckland said it was well documented remaining active in later life was key to having a healthy mind and body.

“This project has the potential to demonstrate how peer support can help older people stay active for longer so the cornerstone of this project is in recruiting ambassadors to motivate their friends,” she said.

“We’re delighted to be working with Curtin University on an initiative that could set the benchmark for retirement communities across Australia.”

The Residents in Action Trial is funded by Healthway and will take place across 14 Amana Living retirement villages over two years.

The recruitment of ambassadors begins in September and will be followed by a series of training workshops before the project commences in April for four months.

Participants will be followed up six months after the trial has ended to establish whether the activity has been sustained.

The project will be completed in partnership with Australian Catholic University and Victoria University.