TODAY |

Exercise, nutrition & socialising; Where do the biggest health benefits lie for Kiwi seniors?

One of the biggest studies into ageing is happening across New Zealand as scientists explore the most effective ways to keep older people healthy. 

They're weighing up exercise, nutrition and socialising to see where the biggest benefits lie. 

In less than a decade, one in six Kiwis will be over retirement age, and many will be active.  

At an Auckland church hall, one group is stepping up in an exercise routine, while another is busy in the kitchen.

They're part of a scientific study, and with 500 seniors from around the country, it's one of the largest of its kind in the world.

All those recruited have been identified as 'pre-frail'. 

"Pre-frail is a condition where people start losing their strength, have increased vulnerability to disability, increased risk of falling over, or having long-term disability," Dr Ruth Teh of the University of Auckland explained to 1 NEWS.  

Each of the seniors is randomly assigned to a group. One does exercise, one a cooking and nutrition class, one group does both, while the fourth group just meet each week for a cuppa.

The single biggest problem that old people have got is no company. Children have gone, they're alone - Study participant Farokh

"From the previous research we know that people, when they start socialising, they expand their circle of friends. And that is good for their cognitive function," Dr Teh said.

The results of this three-year study, part of the Ageing Well National Science Challenge, won't be known for another year. But as far as the seniors are concerned, it's all good.

"We have been taken through a lot of theory, like how to read the keys on the back of packaging, budgeting for the elderly and so on," said study participant Maurice.

Another participant, Carol, said: "I have a lot of falls, so my doctor suggested I came here. So I have done, and I'm enjoying it."

Many of the groups keep the classes going themselves after their 12-week trial ends. Study participant Farokh has been running an exercise class for almost two years 

"The single biggest problem that old people have got is no company. Children have gone, they're alone," Farokh said. 

"I come here every Thursday not to exercise so much as to socialise. And it's beautiful," he said.

Scientists are weighing up exercise, nutrition and socialising to see where the biggest benefits lie. Source: 1 NEWS