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Return to Sport and Physical Activity Guidelines for Older Adults

As a result of Covid-19, there are significant barriers to the resumption of physical activity for older people. This is linked to increased anxiety, nervousness, loss of confidence, feelings of exclusion, weakening of physical activity related social contact and physical deconditioning. 

We all want to see older people come back to sport and physical activity and we hope the following guidance will help inform, encourage, build confidence and in particular reassure older people as they return to a more active lifestyle, in accordance with the public health guidelines and the recommendations of their own sporting body or organisation.   Some older people may not require any adaptations or additional supports in their participation in sport or physical activity, however there are a number of considerations that can be adapted to make participation a safe and enjoyable experience:

  • Outdoor activities: Prioritise more outdoor activities for older people e.g. walking / cycling programmes where there is less risk of virus transmission. Consider adapting traditional indoor activities to an outdoor space if possible.
  • Designated times: Choose a specific time for the initial return to activity which is exclusively for older people. Knowing the initial session will be carefully managed may help limit any apprehension of returning.
  • Small group sizes: Accommodating smaller group sizes may help older people to return to activity as there may be less apprehension regarding large crowds and their ability to socially distance.
  • Social aspect: For many older people, the social element of their activities is just as important as the exercise. Care should be taken that tea/ coffee/chat post-activities are not dismissed as being unnecessary when redesigning programmes. ‘Bring Your Own’ options could be used to accommodate socially distanced interactio
  • Re-orientation events: A ‘welcome back’ event, day, time slot or publication could be created specifically for older people. This may provide an opportunity to visit a facility in order to reassure them that all appropriate measures have been put in place regarding their safe return to activity.
  • Mentoring:  A specific older peoples’ mentor could be nominated across your facility or sports organisation. This would give older people a specific individual contact who could answer any new or ongoing concerns relating to themselves or their groups. This could also be handed down to a member of that group then, once people are happy and settled back in.
  • Buddy system: A buddy system could be put in place where older people are linked in with other members of your facility or organisation to assist with their return. Friends may be slower to return to use the facility and having an identifiable support person, even for their initial visit, may increase their likelihood to return. This could also help to promote intergenerational solidarity.
  • Obtain feedback: Allow for some time pre and postsession to address any concerns that older people may have. This feedback from the participants themselves will be very useful in order to continue adapting your return to sport procedures. Ensure to conduct ongoing informal feedback during sessions, perhaps at break times.
  • Accessibility: Ensure that if entry and exit routes have been updated, that they are accessible for all users.
  • Car parking: If car parking spaces are being reduced across your car parks, ensure that accessible car parking spaces remain in use.

Age & Opportunity and Sport Ireland have released guidelines with specific information for any older persons or groups looking to participate in recreational sport, exercise or physical activity. These guidelines have been carefully designed and prepared to ensure that this return is safe, adaptable and enjoyable for all concerned. To view the guidelines please click on the links below:

Click Here>>> Sport Ireland Return to Sport Guidance for Older People
Click Here>>> Age and Opportunity Return to Recreational Sport and Physical Guidance for Older People                                                                                                                             



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