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    Promoting healthy ageing through light volleyball intervention in Hong Kong

    Hong Kong has an aging population.

    The number of people 65 or older is forecast to increase to 2.16 million by 2031 and 2.56 million by 2041. As a result, Hong Kong’s recurrent social welfare and health expenditure as a percentage of nominal GDP is forecast to increase from $52.4 billion in 2014 to $563.6 billion in 2042. Hong Kong may experience a structural financial deficit within a decade because of higher social and health spending for older adults and a smaller working-age population.

    A review of the literature on the benefits of physical activity (PA) for helping older adults remain active and healthy showed positive benefits in terms of mental and physical health, quality of life, and balance, but concluded that there was a need to identify new forms of PA for older adults. Studies of interviews with older adults found that they preferred PA that emphasised interaction and group activities, as well as sports training. Based on the literature review, the authors concluded that there was a gap between research and services for promoting active aging.

    The LVB volleyball is lighter (150g vs. 250g) and larger (80cm vs. 65cm) than the standard volleyball, so the LVB ball moves slower and stays in the air longer, making it more accessible for older players with slower movement and reaction time. Other benefits are that LVB is a non-contact team sport and volleyball is a popular sport in Hong Kong.

    A pilot study led by Dr Carman Leung Ka-man, Assistant Professor at the Department of Health and Physical Education, The Education University of Hong Kong, demonstrated improvements in health outcomes among older adults through participation in light volleyball (LVB). Therefore, Dr Leung extends the aforementioned work and proposed this study to investigate the effectiveness of an LVB intervention on the physical and psychological health of older adults on a larger scale in Hong Kong and provide data and evidence to support policymaking in relation to future promotion of PA for older adults.

    The study will apply quantitative and qualitative methods. A randomised controlled trial (RCT) design will be used. About 315 participants will be randomly assigned into three groups: (1) the LVB group will take part in a 16-week LVB programme; (2) a Tai Chi (TC) group will use simplified 24-form Yang Style TC; and (3) a control group will follow their normal daily activities and join regular non-PA social gatherings. Measurements will be collected before and after the intervention, and six and 12 months after completion.

    The expected and direct beneficiaries are expected to be: (1) participants who will benefit from improved physical and psychological health after participating in the intervention; (2) NGOs, which will have access to information and resources related to a new PA; (3) government departments, which will benefit from the data and evidence to support policymaking in relation to PA promotion for older adults to promote healthy aging, reduce healthcare expenditure, and promote mass participation in regular practice and training; and (4) LVB and volleyball associations in Hong Kong, which will benefit from promoting LVB locally.

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