On a rainy Saturday in June, Bournemouth University was a buzz of activity as the university opened its doors to the public for the annual Festival of Learning. This is an opportunity for those hard at work on research to share what they’ve found in interactive, creative ways. So it was with excitement that Clare Killingback ( PhD student on the left) and Dr Michele Board (on the right) set up their stand with 20 x 30” portrait photographs with images of individuals who are ‘Ageing Well’.

Allow us to set the research scene…Picture this.
It’s a small community hall with an old wooden floor. The badminton lines have almost been worn off with the years of use. Light floods in through the tall windows with their floor to ceiling curtains. The stage at the far end of the hall waits patiently for the instructor to take their place and for the music to begin. Weights of all different size are lined up on the far table and static bikes and rowing machines are ready for their willing occupants. Hear the chatter and banter as new found friends catch up on family news, “How were the grandkids last week?”, “Is your husband out of hospital yet?”
Imagine walking around the hall for the warm up as you continue to chat and hear everyone’s news…and then the music starts and it’s time to begin. Everyone finds their place, the same place they stand each week, the music begins, the instructor is there and it’s time to get down to this business of exercising.
This research has been about how and why older people stay active as they age through attending community based exercise programmes. These are not necessary the super fit exercise experts you may imagine. Some struggle with aches and pains and have difficulties in walking, yet they faithfully come week after week and exercise – strengthening their muscles, challenging their balance, working on their flexibility – and have lots of fun along the way.
The idea for this photographic exhibition grew out of the enjoyable times spent with these older people trying to understand how and why they have stuck with these exercise programmes (some for up to 16 years). They are positive and inspiring. They are wonderful role models. Through the medium of photography, and the quotes from the exercise participants, people had the opportunity to learn about some of the motivations behind the success of those who have stayed active as they have aged. Over the course of the exhibition the photographs stimulated dozens of conversations about the challenges of staying active and how much activity we need to do to try and stay healthy.
Many thanks to the British Society of Gerontology for endorsing the event. Let’s keep talking about the positive aspects of staying active and ageing well.