Aged Care

New program helps seniors sleep better, move more to stay sharp


A new program called ‘Small Steps’ is helping older Australians make easy changes to their daily habits that could lower their risk of dementia.

The University of South Australia, along with Onkaparinga Council and ACH Group, created this 12-week program for people over 65.

‘Small Steps’ focuses on three main areas: getting more sleep, sitting less and being more active. These small changes can make a big difference in brain health as we age.

Dr Catherine Yandell from UniSA explains, “Maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle is essential to reduce the risk of dementia later in life, yet few older adults meet current activity guidelines, and even fewer continue them in the long term.”

“Part of the problem is that many programs are not individualised to support people to integrate new healthy behaviours into their daily lives.”

The program uses Fitbits to track participants’ physical activity, sleep habits, and personal motivation. The research team then works with each person to create a plan that fits their lifestyle and encourages them to sit less, move more and sleep better.

Associate Professor Ashleigh Smith, who leads the project, says, “Encouraging and supporting older adults to improve their lifestyles is our first goal. But beyond this we’re hoping to see whether this may support improved thinking and memory skills.”

The Australian Government recommends that older adults should aim for 7-8 hours of sleep, 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise at least five times a week, and regular breaks from sitting. ‘Small Steps’ helps participants work towards these goals in ways that suit them best.

The research team is now looking for people over 65 in the Onkaparinga, Marion, and Yankalilla Council areas to join the program.

Related: A ‘simple’ solution to boost physical activity among elderly

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