These pictures show fearless pensioners learning to improve mobility and balance with Britain’s first class for OAPS – in PARKOUR.
The sprightly group can be seen balancing on a beam, climbing over low-lying benches and bending over obstacles designed to mimic everyday outdoor items.
The exercises may seem tame compared to full-on ‘free running’ but for an elderly person it can be as Herculean as jumping between skyscrapers.
A group of elderly folk aged up to 88 with replacement hips and arthritis have been attending a new class which teaches the principles of parkour.
Classes funded by Leeds City Council have been held at Go Level Up – a local academy which specialises in teaching Parkour – in Leeds, West Yorks., for the last six weeks.
The discipline is about moving freely over any terrain using only the abilities of the body, not about performing jaw-dropping stunts.
The class eschews giant leaps for careful steps, ensuring physical and mental boundaries are pushed safely, without broken bones.
Those attending have said the exercises improve their balance and spacial awareness, therefore reducing their risk of falling in later life.
Retired Hoover worker Jack Smith, 86, has attended all six classes with his wife Kathleen, 83.
The grandfather-of-four said: “It has been jolly good. The chap who runs it has professionally tailored it to suit older people, especially those with limiting illnesses.
“It’s something different, something new. What the future holds for it I don’t know, but it has worked well and it’s unchartered territory.
“It’s easy to stagnate when you get older and your movements can quickly go downhill but this is just that little bit of encouragement not to let yourself slide.
“I like it because we are all in the same boat and under no pressure. It makes you want to encourage other people.
“One chap had, had a stroke some years ago and he was paralysed on one side. He could do not all the exercises as well as others but he still gave it all a go.
“We all found different things most challenging. I find it hard to walk in a straight line4 and always wobble. it depends on what your weaknesses are.
“I could not say there has been a transformation but it makes you feel more confident, you can walk that little bit faster.”
The classes have been the brainchild of Mary Tyrrell – a physiotherapist at Leeds NHS Foundation Trust.
She said: “As a physio, it has been so exciting to see how functional movements can be done in a fresh new way that serves to increase confidence in the older generation.
“The movements practiced in Parkour are very similar to getting in and out of a bath/ bed and getting on or off a bus – but done in an exciting and innovative way.
“It results in increased strength, balance and confidence which reduces falls risk.
“The social interaction has also been a huge positive factor. Social isolation is a big problem and this has united people who are living with similar conditions.
“They have supported and encouraged each other.”
The patient feedback so far has been amazing. They have said how they are moving better and with more confidence.
Parkour was originally developed by a group of nine young men as a fun, challenging way of navigating the urban sprawl of their hometowns in France in the 1980s.
The sport’s image of fearless youngsters leaping from one high building to another has been made popular by Hollywood action blockbusters and music videos.
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