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Prevention is the key to tackling chronic illness but it’s never too late to start, says MDX graduate

Tija Hubej working with Age UK Westminster to help housebound individuals increase fitness levels

MDX PhD student Tija is leading on a programme to help housebound individuals become more active.

Exercise at Home is a tailored programme for people aged 50 plus living with chronic conditions or mobility or balance issues who find the activities of daily life challenging.

Clients based in Westminster are offered 13 sessions in total which include an initial consultation and assessment, ten evidence based prescribed exercise sessions and then follow ups and a final assessment.

The mainly seated exercise sessions last up to 30 minutes and target mainly lower body strength plus agility and balance.

Tija was employed by Age UK Westminster in the summer to lead the year-long programme, which was recently recognised by the annual Active Westminster Awards, being named runner up in the OneYou Westminster category.

“This started as a pilot with the Westminster branch of Age UK but now we have 15 active clients and a long waiting list,” Tija said.

“I am really pleased to be nominated for this award because we have only been running the project for a short time and the clients came with us to the presentations which was nice.

“The aim when we started was to target people who are housebound due to different chronic conditions or mobility issues which includes people who may live alone and do not have anyone to support and escort them, meaning that they become scared to leave their homes.

“The goal is to get people to a stage of fitness where they can attend activities in the community so it is about gaining more confidence for getting outside.”

Tija works with the clients to encourage exercise adherence and to find a gap in their daily lives and a space in their homes so they can access the programme themselves once the sessions end.

She also presents people with transport options and helps find various activities that they may be interested in taking part in once they feel able to leave the house.

Tija, who graduated from MDX with a Masters in Sport, Exercise and Physical Activity for Special Populations in 2015, has previously worked to help people with dementia and their carers.

She said: “It is hard to change the habits that people have been living with for so long, that is the most challenging aspect.

“We want after these sessions to leave people alone to work through the exercises we have set. The clients becoming attached to the volunteers is one of the hardest challenges.

“I can’t begin to describe how important this project is and it is very unique project for Age UK. There are other schemes offering 1:1 exercise, however they are not focused on “habit formation”. So when the project finishes people usually do not continue with the exercises.

“The feedback has been good, they have all been glad to have the person in their house working with them and although they miss that person they love the fact that they can now leave their houses and take part in activities with other people.

“Loneliness and isolation are big problems for older people plus chronic conditions mean they cannot leave their properties.”

Tija is now working towards her PhD.

She said: "My work looks at different generations of informal carers of those with dementia and what kind of decisions regarding their health they are making, as well as their perceptions about physical activity and how they ended up in the place they are in now. It is so interesting to hear what physical activity means to different people.

“There is a massive gap for this type of programme and people with complex needs are very expensive to the NHS so it is a vitally important piece of work.”

Age UK Westminster is working with MDX students to offer experience and work placements as part of the Exercise at Home programme.

Click to find out about the Exercise and Physical Activity for Special Populations and Healthy Ageing course.

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