United Kingdom

Fit as a Fiddle

Improving fitness, health and wellbeing of people aged 50 plus


Fit as a fiddle was a nationwide programme running from 2007 to 2012, supporting people aged over 50 with physical activity, healthy eating and mental well-being. Fit as a fiddle was funded by the Big Lottery Fund well-being programme. It hosted innovative projects promoting healthy ageing, which were run in partnership with regional and national organisations, based around the needs and ideas of local people. Fit as a fiddle also had strong links with different national activity and wellbeing programmes for older people, with which it shared ideas, networks and inspiration, including Age UK's Ageing Well programme.

The fit as a fiddle programme was divided into nine regions. Each region co-ordinated a portfolio of projects that promote physical activity, healthy eating and well-being among older people. Its programmes included:

  • Dancing for fun - dance, movement and music, in parts of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough
  • Fit as a Fish - swimming and water activities for older people in Devon and Gloucestershire
  • Greenagers - gardening in the West Midlands growing food and sharing skills
  • Slimmin' Wi' No Women - healthy eating groups dedicated to older men in St Helens

Aimed at people fifty plus it offers new activities and opportunities across the countries such as gardening, cookery, walking and chair based exercise, to yoga, swimming, tai chi and bowls, thus improving fitness, health and wellbeing of older people.

Fit as a fiddle now ended, but you can read the final evaluation report by clicking here. Please also see the the new programme "fit for the future".

New Dynamics of Ageing Programme

The programme aims to develop practical policy and implementation guidance and novel scientific, technological and design responses to help older people enjoy better quality lives as they age. This requires integrating understandings of the changing meanings, representations and experiences of ageing and the key factors shaping them (including behavioral, biological, clinical, cultural, historical, social, economic and technological), through direct engagement with older people and user organizations. The programme harnessed inputs from a wide range of disciplines to reveal the dynamic interplay between ageing individuals and their changing technological, cultural, social and physical environments - local, national and global - and to develop methods and means for overcoming the consequent constraints on the quality of life of older people.


This ambitious seven year initiative (2005-2012) is the largest research programme on ageing in the UK that aims to improve quality of life for older people. It is a unique and multidisciplinary collaboration between five UK research councils with many projects falling into seven thematic categories: arts and humanities, global ageing, health and wellbeing, mobility and independence, nutrition, statistics, and technology.


The central objectives of the Programme are:

  • Exploring of the ways in which individual ageing is subject to different influences over the life course, including identifying the biological determinants of healthy ageing and the social and environmental factors contributing to ageing well;
  • Understanding the dynamic ways in which the meaning, understanding and experience of ageing are currently changing and becoming more diverse;
  • Investigating the diverse ways in which ageing is/has been understood and represented at different times and in different cultures.
  • Encouraging and supporting the development of innovative multidisciplinary research groups and methods;
  • Providing a sound evidence base for policy and practice (including the development of prototype systems, procedures and devices) so that research contributes to well-being and quality of life.
RSVP - Retired and Senior Volunteer Programme

This UK programme encourages people aged 50 and over to get involved in local matters in England, Scotland and Wales.


This free standing programme within Community Service Volunteers (CSV) harnesses the wide range of skills and experience of mature people to the benefit of people in the community. Apart from a few permanent paid workers, it is staffed by volunteers who organise other volunteers into groups of between 10 to 50. The permanent staff identifies charities, hospitals, schools and other organisations that would like to engage a team of volunteers. They also make sure that all volunteers have proper training and support.

Projects operate in many sectors: health, environment, cultural heritage, etc., in around 20 regions with more than 14,000 volunteers. The wealth of organised activities includes: ';Grandmentors' working with teenagers; a programme connecting isolated retired seafarers; recycling bicycles, and organising meals for the homeless.

PoPPs - Partnerships for older People Projects

The Department of Health in the UK established the 'Partnerships for Older People' (2005-2009) to provide evidence of preventative interventions that work to maximise older people's quality of life and to support them to be healthy, active and independent for longer.


POPPs has developed and evaluated services and approaches for older people aimed at promoting health, well-being and independence and preventing or delaying the need for higher intensity or institutional care. The experiences of different projects are meant to strengthen the evidence-base and guide future initiatives to invest in and develop cost-effective and efficient approaches. The POPPs website offers links to evaluation reports, strategic reports and other related resources.

Twenty-nine local authorities were involved as pilot sites, working with health and voluntary sector partners to develop services, with funding of £60m. Those projects developed ranged from low level services, such as lunch-clubs, to more formal preventive initiatives, such as hospital discharge and rapid response services Over a quarter of a million people (264,637) used one or more of these services. Of the 146 projects, two-thirds were primarily directed at reducing social isolation and exclusion or promoting healthy living pamong older people (';community facing'). The remaining one-third focused primarily on avoiding hospital admission or facilitating early discharge from acute or institutional care (';hospital facing').


The reduction in hospital emergency bed days resulted in considerable savings, to the extent that for every extra £1 spent on the POPP services, there has been approximately a £1.20 additional benefit in savings on emergency bed days. This is the headline estimate drawn from a statistically valid range of an £0.80 to £1.60 saving on emergency bed days for every extra £1 spent on the projects. Overnight hospital stays were reduced by 47% and use of Accident & Emergency departments by 29%. Reductions were also seen in physiotherapy/occupational therapy and clinic or outpatient appointments with a total cost reduction of £2,166 per person.

A practical example of what works is pro-active case coordination services, where visits to A&E departments fell by 60%, hospital overnight stays were reduced by 48%, phone calls to GPs fell by 28%, visits to practice nurses reduced by 25% and GP appointments reduced by 10%. Efficiency gains in health service use appear to have been achieved without any adverse impact on the use of social care resources. The overwhelming majority of the POPP projects have been sustained, with only 3% being closed – either because they did not deliver the intended outcomes or because local strategic priorities had changed. PCTs have contributed to the sustainability.