Healthy Weight for Adults and Older Australians

Older People

Page last updated: 21 July 2011

Older people may be considered as three different subgroups: those aged 45–64 years, those aged 65–79 years and those aged 80 years and over. As they are not a unitary group, target group segmentation is important, especially for any communication strategies.

As people age often they have more time to undertake physical activity and more exposure to the media. It is critical to ensure that appropriate messages about the health benefits of physical activity throughout older age groups, and about preventing weight gain in late stages of middle age are known, understood and supported by access to community-based physical activity programs.

As people age they have increased contact with health services. It is important that health services support the management and prevention of weight gain in people in the late stages of middle age and encourage participation in appropriate physical activity throughout old age, as part of overall, integrated health care.

The outcomes and actions for the whole population are relevant and applicable to older people. The actions in this section are in addition to those in the ‘whole population’ section.

Outcomes sought:

Increased understanding about the health benefits of healthy weight as people become older, together with ways of preventing weight gain, and knowledge, skill and motivation to achieve and maintain a healthy and active lifestyle.

Incorporation of physical activity, better nutrition and healthy lifestyle actions into programs conducted by community organisations working with older people.

Access by older people to appropriate community-based lifestyle interventions, particularly physical activity facilities and services.

Increased capacity of health sector services to refer, support and provide multidisciplinary services that can contribute to increasing physical activity and preventing weight gain, as part of an integrated service.

Actions:

Community sector

  • Develop and conduct a series of social marketing and communication campaigns on overweight, obesity, nutrition and physical activity, segmented for different target groups across the older population. The different target group segments could comprise:
- 45 to 55 years, where there is considerable potential to prevent weight gain following menopause and other life changes.
– 55 to 65 years, where there is potential to emphasis the value of healthy lifestyle as part of other lifestyle changes occurring around retirement. – 65 years plus, where there are multiple health and social benefits from engaging in physical activity, especially strength training.
– older adults who have reduced functional capacity, and require modified or tailored activity services.
  • Emphasise the specific benefits of strength training for older people

Health sector

Primary health care

  • Encourage General Practitioners to utilise current MBS Items to refer older people to appropriate physical activity services.
  • Enhance the skills of the health workforce in relation to nutrition and physical activity for older people.
  • Provide and promote routine universal health checks and lifestyle advice, including assessment of weight and lifestyle, as part of primary health care for people around 45 years.
  • Provide health professionals and accredited fitness leaders with knowledge and skills in promoting and conducting appropriate physical activity programs for older people, including strength training, balance and cardiovascular fitness.

Private health insurance

  • Encourage private health insurance systems to provide access for older people to structured physical activity programs.

Cross-sector

  • Implement community-based physical activity options specifically for older people through collaboration across sectors including private enterprise, local government and older people’s organisations.
  • Develop environmental planning guidelines for residential developments for older people which emphasise good access to physical activity facilities, public transport and a variety of food retail outlets through collaboration between local government and relevant planning authorities.
  • Increase the availability of transport options that meet older people’s needs through collaboration between industry, communities and local government.
  • Encourage the food industry to develop food products that are single portion sizes and priced competitively.