Bob Laventure, MEd, is a consultant for the British Heart Foundation National Centre for Physical Activity and Health. He leads programme development for older people and physical activity and is the author of the Active For Later Life resource. He also works with international working groups including the European HEPA and EUNAPPA programmes, among others. He is a founding member of the National Coalition for Active Ageing in England. Active Aging Community Center editors interviewed Laventure in August 2009.
Why did you choose a career in aging and physical activity?
I think active aging chose me! My early career was spent teaching physical education in schools and working in health promotion and related exercise. A career in aging and physical activity seemed to be the natural step as I aged myself, but also offered me new challenges and perspectives and very different horizons. I just wish I had made the change earlier. Active ageing is such fun and so rewarding. However, it’s fascinating to see the similarities between working with people at opposite ends of the lifespan. Both are about being person centered in finding ways to help people motivate themselves, finding their own interests and goals, and valuing how physical activity can impact on their lives in so many ways.
What do you do as a consultant for the British Heart Foundation National Centre for Physical Activity and Health?
My role at the BHF National Centre at Loughborough University is to provide support for a range of professionals across the UK who are working with the older population and engaged in active aging. That support takes a number of forms from developing resources (e.g., The Active for Later Life resource), training programmes (e.g., the "Someone Like Me" programme designed to train Senior Peer Health Mentors) conferences, and seminars, and the translation of research evidence into practice. The BHF National Centre also works in partnership with a range of national, European and international organisations also committed to the development of active aging. It’s an exciting time to be involved in active aging across the UK.
Would you describe what you do as advisor to Age Concern’s Fit as a Fiddle and the Football Foundation Extra Time programmes?
These two programmes (Age Concern’s Fit as a Fiddle and the Football Foundation Extra Time programme) are new national opportunities designed to reach different groups of older peoples using different methods of working. Fit as a Fiddle is about maximizing the skills and energy of volunteers, and Extra Time is about looking at how our major soccer clubs can work with older people through community groups and organizations. Our role is to assist these two programmes by sharing previous experience of research, training, and successful practice.
What projects are you working on now?
In addition to the ongoing activity identified above, my current work is devoted to three main areas, the biggest of which is leading the BHF National Centre work together with Dr. Dawn Skelton at Glasgow Caledonian University, Scotland, as co-host to the World Congress on Active Aging in 2012. That’s an amazing challenge and an exciting chance to bring together researchers and practitioners from all over the world to the UK for what we hope will be an inspiring event.
The BHF National Centre has also been instrumental in establishing the National Coalition for Active Ageing. Through the National Coalition we are looking to establish an annual UK-wide programme of "Active Ageing Weeks" leading up to the World Congress, giving professionals the opportunity to engage with older people through participation and promotional events. I am also currently involved in looking at physical activity programmes that could be designed for people living with dementia and how a variety of training progammes for active aging professionals could assist in making a difference to the quality of life for people living with dementia. Oh, and I’ve just registered for my PhD!
What is the best part about your job?
The wonderfully committed and supportive people I get to work with. Aging and physical activity includes such a diverse professional landscape, including those who work with volunteers, health promotion, higher education, residential and care services, therapists, and exercise teachers and instructors. The people I get to work with are "can do" people, and whilst the promotion of active aging is challenging, people are always positive about finding solutions and creative ways of working - no day is ever the same!
I also get to travel, meet, and learn from others across the world, which is a big bonus. But above all, it’s working with older people (seniors) themselves. Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of training a 94-year-old senior peer mentor who had volunteered to work with us in buddying and supporting participants on a home-based exercise programme. What enthusiasm, experience, insight, and knowledge she had to offer us all.
What has been the most rewarding experience in your career, and why?
Too many to list and far too difficult to measure. On a day-to-day basis, it is believing that the training and professional education opportunities we offer can make a real difference to professionals and the lives of people they work with. Ask me again in August 2012 as we close the World Congress on Active Aging, I hope that may feature as well.
Based on your experience, what is the most significant advancement in your field? Why?
It’s yet to happen. The most significant advancement for me will be when governments and policy makers worldwide recognize the real importance of active aging as an entitlement for people of all ages and abilities and assist "people like us" to do all that we really want to do.