Older women across Sydney have revealed that investing in wellness programs makes good sense. They improve the physical and mental wellbeing of older women and help reduce our health costs as well.
On July 17th NSW Governor, Marie Bashir, will launch the results of a study into the effectiveness of Wellness Centres.
The study commissioned by the Older Women's Network NSW (OWN), called Kicking Up Autumn Leaves, shows that women are taking their wellbeing into their own hands, on their own terms and for their own benefit.
'We knew all along that Wellness activities work', explained Renate Watkinson from OWN. 'But it is wonderful that this study has proven it and that we now have a tool to lobby for more Wellness activity'.
The OWN wellness model for maintaining health and wellbeing is innovative. It focuses on the physical, mental, social and spiritual aspects of a woman's health. Activities are designed by older women for older women. At the core of Kicking Up Autumn Leaves are women's stories of what it means to be well and the impact of their involvement in wellness activities. Stories describe friendships, women learning together and taking control of their lives.
'Older women support one another to develop a strong mind, a resilient attitude, and the ability to stay physically and mentally active and alive. This helps to reduce isolation and depression.' explained Judy Pinn, one of the researchers.
In fact, this is evident in the way the stories were gathered.
'Older women not only told their inspiring stories, but they were actually the researchers who collected and analysed them," said Judy.
The evaluation was a venture between the Older Women's Network (OWN), Northern Sydney Central Coast Health (NSCCH) and academics from the University of Western Sydney and University of Technology, Sydney.
Wellness Centres depend to a large extent on volunteers. However, the benefits of wellness could have greater impact if the activities are expanded.
'I think there are thousands of older women who could benefit from wellness activities," said Noreen Hewett from OWN. 'It really is a very cost effective way for women to maintain their wellbeing, but the services need more support to expand and amplify these positive health outcomes.'
OWN hope that the study will encourage more funding to support existing groups, and also expand them into other parts of NSW.
'Wellness activities provide an effective low cost public health benefit - what more could funding bodies want?' questioned Renate.