Margaret Jennings hears how Corry Uí Dhálaigh — a passionate advocate of exercise in later years — is inspired by her mother, who is still active in her 80s

ALTHOUGH nowadays we are bombarded with information about the importance of exercise for healthy ageing, it can really help when we can see those benefits in someone who has walked the talk.

That’s been the case for 57-year-old Corry Uí Dhálaigh, who watched her mother Patsy Olsthoorn, take up an exercise routine in her 50s after rearing 10 children and who is still very active as she faces her 84th birthday.

“Her doctor told her because she was slightly overweight after having all the kids that she needed to get it down and do some exercise, so she started walking, then started jogging and then did the Dublin City Marathon. I had had my first baby at the time and I went down to see her, with my baby in my arms; I couldn’t believe it. I thought she was ancient at the time of course, in her 50s!” says Corry.

“She’s such an inspiration and she says all the time: ‘You’ve got to be active, you’ve got to be active’. She has a blockage in her heart discovered 10 years ago and there was nothing they could do because of where it was placed, but that never deterred her whatsoever. For her age she’s incredible. My mother is an absolute inspiration to me; when I’m 80 I want to be as fit as her — her quality of life is so good.”

With such a role model, Corry has always remained fit as she aged and so was delighted to discover the Go for Life national programme for sport and physical activity for people aged over 50, organised by Age & Opportunity.

It is run by more than 1200 volunteers nationwide called PALs (Physical Activity Leaders), people who are already part of a group or club that meets regularly and are then specifically trained if they are willing to lead activities.

PALs lead their local group in short exercise routines, fun games, simple dances and in sports like pitch and toss. You don’t have to be very sporty or have a sporting background to become a PAL; you just need to be enthusiastic.

Louth-based Corry happens to be both fit and enthusiastic. She trained as a PAL last year after the local keep-fit instructor left and she took over the weekly class of participants, aged in their late 50s to their early 80s.

“The Go For Life idea totally grabbed me,” she says. “I thought absolutely — this is the thing that should keep everybody active. So I’m quite passionate about all this.”

As a result, Corry mustered up three teams of four, consisting of six men and six women, to represent Louth for the first time at the sixth annual Go For Life games which were held in DCU earlier this month.

Each team takes part in three games, based on some of the activities played by Go For Life groups around the country — Lobbers (a target game, adapted from petanque and boules); Flisk (adapted from boccia and horseshoe pitching) and Scidils (an adaptation of 10 pin bowling with one skittle).

The spirit of the games is about participation rather than competition, although there is lots of friendly competition on the day. Corry and her team had a ball: “The games keep you flexible — you’re bending up and down all the time and you also have to concentrate. Also I do warming up and down exercises with the team — that was part of my PAL training. The good thing about the games though, is you don’t even know you’re exercising because you are having such craic — that’s the beauty of it.”

Her team had only four months to prepare for the games on June 10, but already her enthusiastic members are champing at the bit to get started in September — to get a proper lead-in to the 2018 event.

The good news is obviously spreading about the Go For Life activities; this year’s games featured teams from 22 counties, compared to participation from seven counties in the original event, six years ago.

The participants in the keep-fit programme are mainly female, but since the introduction of the games more men are coming on board through the development of relationships with groups like Mens Sheds — and as Corrie says, it appeals to their competitive streak. “The main thing I would say to older people is that it’s never too late to get involved — and to exercise,” says Corry.

She learnt that at an early age from her mum, but the Go For Life programme has given her — and anyone who feels the urge, a sociable and fun outlet to take those important steps towards healthy ageing.

Go for Life is an Age & Opportunity initiative, funded by the Irish Sports Council. It runs in partnership with the Local Sports Partnerships and the Health Service Executive Health Promotion Units. The Go For Life programme offers grants annually and groups can apply for these to buy equipment. Age & Opportunity is the national organisation that inspires everyone to reach their full potential as they age


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