This week’s blog comes from Chloe Smith, who is one of five fundraisers undertaking the Royal Parks Half Marathon on behalf of Age UK London! Chloe takes us through the preparation needed to tackle the 13.1 miles and explains what inspired her to raise money for older Londoners. If you wish to sponsor Chloe, you can do so here.
Before I began training for the Royal Parks Half Marathon, I would say that I wasn’t extremely fit. Exercise, for me, consisted of running for the occasional tube and a weekly netball match. Then, in February, I was given a Fitbit for my birthday and I suddenly realised how little I was moving throughout the day. I had become used to my routine, walking to the tube, sitting in front of a desk all day, a short walk at lunch to get a sandwich, back on the tube and home again, repeating the process every day. I was shocked to learn that I wasn’t even close to achieving the recommended 10,000 daily steps. In March I watched my cousin run the London marathon and it was at this moment that I decided I would sign up for the Royal Parks Half.
The training has been hard, especially during the summer months when the weather has gone from one extreme to another, biblical rain one week and blistering heat the next. At the recommendation of my brother, I downloaded the Nike + Run Club app and haven’t looked back since. Their tailor-made training plan has meant my training isn’t solely in my hands (thank goodness as I am an incredibly experienced procrastinator…) and I have the lovely Nike woman spurring me on with her soothing voice, even on those days when all I want to do after work is sit in front of the TV.
What also keeps me going when my lungs feel like they’re on fire and my legs feel like lead, is the knowledge that I am raising money for such a worthwhile cause. It was impossible choosing a charity to run for, all are fantastic, however, whenever I read in the press about older people being lonely, without heating or enough to eat, it strikes a chord. A study, the findings of which were released earlier this month, suggests that loneliness is deadlier than obesity.
Lonely people, according to the study led by Dr Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Professor of Psychology at Brigham Young University, Utah, have a 50 per cent increased risk of an early death, compared to 30 per cent of those that are obese. An Age UK 2016 survey found that nearly a million older people are lonely, so assuming this figure is about the same today, 500,000 elderly people are at risk of a premature death linked to loneliness. On top of that, 44,000 older Londoners are currently identified as “chronically lonely”, which can mean going days at a time without any proper interaction with another human.
Age UK has set up programmes in collaboration with local Age UK branches to provide services to combat this. Furthermore, their work to ensure that older have warm homes in the winter months through home energy checks is especially important, considering that WHO estimated 130,000 elderly people died from cold-related illnesses from 2004 to 2008 in the UK.
In addition, Age UK London host “Techy Tea Parties” to teach digital skills to older people in the capital. By learning to use social media and programmes such as Skype, it is possible for older Londoners to bridge the gap between themselves and family members who may live some distance away.
Their work on both a practical and political level is why I chose to run for them and as we are an ageing population, the positive work they do may still be in practice when my generation grows older.
I will try to keep this all in mind in the upcoming weeks before the Royal Parks Half on 8th October.
Can you help Chloe to support older Londoners? All the information you need is here.