Time to craic on with fit­ness pro­gramme

Mar­garet Jen­nings hears how Corry Uí Dhálaigh — a pas­sion­ate ad­vo­cate of ex­er­cise in later years — is in­spired by her mother, who is still ac­tive in her 80s

Irish Examiner - Feelgood - - Ageing With Attitude -

ALTHOUGH nowa­days we are bom­barded with in­for­ma­tion about the im­por­tance of ex­er­cise for healthy age­ing, it can re­ally help when we can see those ben­e­fits in some­one who has walked the talk.

That’s been the case for 57-year-old Corry Uí Dhálaigh, who watched her mother Patsy Ol­sthoorn, take up an ex­er­cise rou­tine in her 50s af­ter rear­ing 10 chil­dren and who is still very ac­tive as she faces her 84th birth­day.

“Her doc­tor told her be­cause she was slightly over­weight af­ter hav­ing all the kids that she needed to get it down and do some ex­er­cise, so she started walk­ing, then started jog­ging and then did the Dublin City Marathon. I had had my first baby at the time and I went down to see her, with my baby in my arms; I couldn’t be­lieve it. I thought she was an­cient at the time of course, in her 50s!” says Corry.

“She’s such an in­spi­ra­tion and she says all the time: ‘You’ve got to be ac­tive, you’ve got to be ac­tive’. She has a block­age in her heart dis­cov­ered 10 years ago and there was noth­ing they could do be­cause of where it was placed, but that never de­terred her what­so­ever. For her age she’s in­cred­i­ble. My mother is an ab­so­lute in­spi­ra­tion to me; when I’m 80 I want to be as fit as her — her qual­ity of life is so good.”

With such a role model, Corry has al­ways re­mained fit as she aged and so was de­lighted to dis­cover the Go for Life na­tional pro­gramme for sport and phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity for peo­ple aged over 50, or­gan­ised by Age & Op­por­tu­nity.

It is run by more than 1200 vol­un­teers na­tion­wide called PALs (Phys­i­cal Ac­tiv­ity Lead­ers), peo­ple who are al­ready part of a group or club that meets reg­u­larly and are then specif­i­cally trained if they are will­ing to lead ac­tiv­i­ties.

PALs lead their lo­cal group in short ex­er­cise rou­tines, fun games, sim­ple dances and in sports like pitch and toss. You don’t have to be very sporty or have a sport­ing back­ground to be­come a PAL; you just need to be en­thu­si­as­tic.

Louth-based Corry hap­pens to be both fit and en­thu­si­as­tic. She trained as a PAL last year af­ter the lo­cal keep-fit in­struc­tor left and she took over the weekly class of par­tic­i­pants, aged in their late 50s to their early 80s.

“The Go For Life idea to­tally grabbed me,” she says. “I thought ab­so­lutely — this is the thing that should keep ev­ery­body ac­tive. So I’m quite pas­sion­ate about all this.”

As a re­sult, Corry mus­tered up three teams of four, con­sist­ing of six men and six women, to rep­re­sent Louth for the first time at the sixth an­nual Go For Life games which were held in DCU ear­lier this month.

Each team takes part in three games, based on some of the ac­tiv­i­ties played by Go For Life groups around the coun­try — Lob­bers (a tar­get game, adapted from petanque and boules); Flisk (adapted from boc­cia and horse­shoe pitch­ing) and Scidils (an adap­ta­tion of 10 pin bowl­ing with one skit­tle).

The spirit of the games is about par­tic­i­pa­tion rather than com­pe­ti­tion, although there is lots of friendly com­pe­ti­tion on the day. Corry and her team had a ball: “The games keep you flex­i­ble — you’re bend­ing up and down all the time and you also have to con­cen­trate. Also I do warm­ing up and down ex­er­cises with the team — that was part of my PAL train­ing. The good thing about the games though, is you don’t even know you’re ex­er­cis­ing be­cause you are hav­ing such craic — that’s the beauty of it.”

Her team had only four months to pre­pare for the games on June 10, but al­ready her en­thu­si­as­tic mem­bers are champ­ing at the bit to get started in Septem­ber — to get a proper lead-in to the 2018 event.

The good news is ob­vi­ously spread­ing about the Go For Life ac­tiv­i­ties; this year’s games fea­tured teams from 22 coun­ties, com­pared to par­tic­i­pa­tion from seven coun­ties in the orig­i­nal event, six years ago.

The par­tic­i­pants in the keep-fit pro­gramme are mainly fe­male, but since the in­tro­duc­tion of the games more men are com­ing on board through the devel­op­ment of re­la­tion­ships with groups like Mens Sheds — and as Cor­rie says, it ap­peals to their com­pet­i­tive streak. “The main thing I would say to older peo­ple is that it’s never too late to get in­volved — and to ex­er­cise,” says Corry.

She learnt that at an early age from her mum, but the Go For Life pro­gramme has given her — and any­one who feels the urge, a so­cia­ble and fun out­let to take those im­por­tant steps to­wards healthy age­ing.

Go for Life is an Age & Op­por­tu­nity ini­tia­tive, funded by the Ir­ish Sports Coun­cil. It runs in part­ner­ship with the Lo­cal Sports Part­ner­ships and the Health Ser­vice Ex­ec­u­tive Health Pro­mo­tion Units. The Go For Life pro­gramme of­fers grants an­nu­ally and groups can ap­ply for these to buy equip­ment. Age & Op­por­tu­nity is the na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tion that in­spires ev­ery­one to reach their full po­ten­tial as they age http://www.age­an­doppor­tu­nity.ie/

Pic­ture: iStock

GO FOR IT: Corry Uí Dhálaigh, cen­tre, at the sixth an­nual Go For Life Games at DCU ear­lier this month, with a team of six men and six women rep­re­sent­ing Louth for the first time.

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