How has Covid-19 has impacted older people’s groups?

Covid-19 restrictions have been devastating for older people’s groups and fear of getting Covid-19 is the biggest barrier to recommencing group activities, including physical activity, according to a report released by Age & Opportunity today. The report examines The impact of Covid-19 on physical activity in older people’s groups.

Age & Opportunity is the national development organisation working to improve the quality of life of people aged 50 to 100+. Their report is based on 700 survey responses and four focus groups.

How has Covid-19 has impacted older people's groups?
Deirdre on left, Mairead on right (FitLine Volunteer Mentors)

“Since this started our men’s group hasn’t got to meet and the Community Centre is closed,” said Tom, Dublin. “We’d usually meet in the centre and have a bit of banter. The mental aspect of the lockdown will be seen for years to come. If you’re alone it’s very difficult for mental health.

“We’re lucky our group are quite tech savvy so we continue to communicate through WhatsApp and Zoom.

“What we look forward to most in the future is the opening of Community Centres. I hope that all the group will get their vaccines soon so we can start to get back to some sort of normality. Especially for everyone’s mental health.”

The report found that groups are an important part of older people’s communities and the lives of their members, and physical activities are a core part of all group schedules.

Key findings in the report include:

  • Groups with access to safe outdoor and indoor spaces fared better when restrictions were lifted somewhat.
  • Individuals with access to the internet have more opportunities for contact with their group.
  • Men’s groups have been less successful at keeping in touch and getting together than women’s groups.
  • Internet, phone, post and broadcast media could hold solutions for groups to keep in touch and to keep active.
  • In the aftermath of Covid-19 supports such as access to bigger venues, safe transport, more enabling environments, more and varied physical activity resources for groups and a positive outlook about ageing will be crucial to bringing groups back to life and back to physical activity.

Karen Horgan, CEO of Age & Opportunity, said:

“Our report on The impact of Covid-19 on physical activity in older people’s groups has shown that fear is a big factor in getting back to physical activity.

Covid-19 has also highlighted the digital divide that exists in Ireland and we want to make sure that people who don’t have access to digital technology can still talk to someone about ways to ensure they keep active. We’re delighted to have the support and funding from Sport Ireland and Healthy Ireland’s Keep Well Campaign to be able to take FitLine nationwide. FitLine is our free phone service designed to give older people information, motivation and encouragement to introduce physical activity to their daily lives.”

As restrictions are lifted groups are looking for ideas and inspiration about physical activity that they can carry forward themselves and information about physical activity shared beyond the internet so that everyone can access it. They are also looking for the difficulties faced by older people during this crisis to be recognised and responded to appropriately on a national level.

“Walking is one of the only things we can do at the moment, and I do some cycling too,” said Mairead, an Age & Opportunity FitLine Volunteer Mentor. “We’ve loads of plans at the moment for what we’ll do when everything opens up again. Our group reckon there won’t be a single weekend we’ll want to stay at home.

“It’s not easy to keep active, especially right now but I hope initiatives like FitLine are giving people encouragement and motivation. There’s so many people in the same boat. My advice is don’t be afraid to do something for yourself.”

FitLine, an Age & Opportunity initiative, is a motivation phone line aimed at people aged 50+. The service is completely free. You will receive a call from a FitLine Volunteer Mentor every two weeks to give you advice and information to get moving. Call 1800 303 545 for details.

For more information and to view the full report visit

Age & Opportunity is the national organisation working to improve the quality of life of people aged 50 to 100+. Our aim is to inspire people aged 50+ to live a dynamic life in which they are more active, more visible, more creative and more connected. We work with communities and groups nationwide to provide a range of opportunities for older people who want to get more involved in arts and culture, sport and physical activity, civic engagement and personal development. Visit:

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