Tackling Obesity Together

New Report points to Obsesity in Over 50s_01

It’s a Thursday afternoon in Cambridge Boy’s Football Club on Pine Road in Ringsend. Inside, the weight-loss club, Slimming World, has set up shop; tables on either side of the room offer a variety of healthy eating snacks and guidelines on losing weight.

“I have about 150 members and we have three sessions here,” said Pauline Caulfield Gregg, the group manager. Slimming World has been operating in the UK and Ireland for the past 40 years and offers healthy eating guidelines and other advice for weight loss. “We would have seen a lot of women in their over-50s,” said Pauline. “By the time you’re 50, you probably have your kids reared and your life automatically slows down.”

A recent report by the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA), based in Trinity College, found that one-third of over 50s are obese and a further 44% are considered overweight. The report also suggests that obesity is strongly associated with increased heart disease and diabetes. Even more worrying is that heart disease amongst the over-50s is twice as high.

The study was the second part of a research by TILDA, which surveyed over 8,000 people between April 2012 and January 2013. The report also says that about one-third of those over-50s report low levels of physical activity, with less woman exercising compared to men.

“I think the best exercise you can get if you’re over 50 is actually to get out there and walk,” said Pauline. “It can slowly turn into a jog.”

Despite the negative points contained in the report, the numbers are just a general consensus of a few thousand people, certainly not indicative of everybody in their 50s.

“The older you get the less mobile you are,” said Karin Ruddle, a participant of Slimming World who is in her 50s and from Sandymount. “I go to the gym and I exercise on the beach, I probably do too much, actually, but I love it.”

“When I retired from work I had put on a bit of weight, so I wanted to get rid of that,” said Noreen McCarthy also from Sandymount and in her 50s.

The club has harnessed a community spirit by promoting a healthy lifestyle outside of the club’s walls. Many members meet up to go for runs or walks and help each other out with eating plans, promoting a sense of closeness when they meet each Thursday.

In line with their community ethos, Slimming World recently started a Slim for Good programme, a six week project which donates money to a selected charity (this year it’s the Irishtown Special Olympics Group) based on how much weight a person loses. So, for every pound a member loses, they donate the money either through a sponsorship card or by throwing money into an allocated tin at Slimming World.

Pictured, from left to right: Karin Ruddle, Pauline Caulfield Gregg and Noreen McCarthy.

By Liam Cahill