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Fit as a Fiddle

Fit as a fiddle was a nationwide programme that championed physical activity, healthy eating and mental wellbeing for older people

What was Fit as a Fiddle?

We received £15.1 million to deliver Fit as a Fiddle from the Big Lottery Fund as part of their Wellbeing programme in 2007.

Projects were delivered regionally by over 400 community organisations, including 100 local Age UKs. Over 350,000 older people and 4,500 volunteers participated in activities throughout the programme.

The National Programme delivered two England wide initiatives: it developed new models for engaging older people in volunteer based activity programmes and a range of activity based resources for consumers and practitioners.

Nine regional programmes co-ordinated a portfolio of innovative projects that enhanced older people’s health and wellbeing, from ‘Dancing for fun’ and aqua circuits to men’s cooking groups and thai chi.

In developing the programme, research was used which identified that older people who were not physically active were less able to do everyday tasks.

The research also showed that older people themselves felt that making a contribution to society, such as volunteering, was good for their mental wellbeing.

Experiences of Fit as a Fiddle

Programme evaluation

Whole programme, national and regional evaluations with key learning outcomes and recommendations have been produced throughout the 5-year programme. These aim to share key learning and highlight the impacts on older people.

Whole programme evaluation

An overall programme evaluation, written by Ecorys and the Centre for Social Gerontology at Keele University, is now available. The evaluation presents 5-year findings on programme themes including: volunteering, equality and diversity, partnerships and sustainability. 

Programme evaluation (PDF 2 MB)

The positive mental wellbeing outcomes from the programme are clearly evident in the evaluation survey and qualitative data.

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National evaluations

Life and Soul - Sheltered Housing project

Written by NAPA, the report presents the project's key findings and lessons learnt and informs and advises future projects in the Sheltered Housing sector.

Key points:

  • The Life and Soul project aimed to increase well-being and health literacy and to encourage activity within the sheltered housing sector.
  • 29 sheltered housing scheme clusters received Life and Soul volunteer training, over 300 volunteers were trained and 101 road shows ran promoting health literacy.
  • Following training, volunteers demonstrated their skills in motivating and mentoring their peers to become engaged in wellbeing activities and make an impact on scheme life.

Life and Soul evaluation report (PDF 3 MB)

Come to Tea - Care home project

Read about the successes and learning from engaging with care homes across the country.

Key points:

  • The project created a large number of tea parties but also prompted a larger range of activities to benefit older people in 21 care homes, including training workshops, friends and family days and regional roadshows.
  • It increased the health literacy of the residents.
  • It also increased the volunteering opportunities in care homes.

Come to Tea evaluation report (PDF 2 MB)

Moving Moments - BME, Faith project

Read how the training package for Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) and faith communities, enabling opportunities for physical activity and wellbeing, was developed.

Key points:

  • The project empowered 1,224 older people from disadvantaged communities, giving them support through the volunteer networks and enabling these individuals to live healthier, fitter, more informed and less isolated ways of life.
  • The project has also developed a bespoke training programme with a focus on BME older people and their needs relating to physical activity and wellbeing.
  • Volunteers seemed to take on board the key messages about healthy eating and activity themselves. The trainers noted 'it was clear that they had benefitted from the learning and begun to make positive changes to their own lifestyles.'

Faith evaluation report (PDF 689 KB)

West Cumbria - isolated at home project

Read about this training and volunteer support scheme which was set up to encourage lifestyle and health improvements.

Key points:

  • Older people were supported with health issues and enabled to improve their physical and mental well-being through peer support.
  • A well-developed volunteer training package was produced that we can now adapt and use as a base for future volunteer support.
  • We have a base of trained volunteers who have gone on to support other projects and services following the end of this project.

Isolated at Home evaluation report (PDF 747 KB)

Community Network - isolated at home project

Read how Age UK partnered with Community Network to provide peer supported telephone groups. The report highlights the impacts and development of the programme.

Key points:

  • The results found that there were significant increases in both the number of portions of fruit and veg eaten and amount of walking done after participants had finished the course.
  • There was a significant increase in participants mental well-being score after they completed the course in comparison to the initial score recorded.
  • Most participants achieved what they wanted to (or close to that) from the telephone groups.

Community Network evaluation report (PDF 930 KB)

Independent Age - isolated at home project

Read about the findings of the project, which aimed to bring improved wellbeing to older people through advice on healthy eating and appropriate exercise.

Key points:

  • There was an increase in the participant’s reported consumption of fruit and vegetables, with the average daily portion increasing from 2.84 per day to 4.17.
  • The majority of respondents agreed, or agreed strongly, that the project raised awareness of healthy eating and helped older people to eat healthily.
  • The majority of the managers and volunteers felt the project had an impact on older people’s mental wellbeing.

Isolated at home evaluation report (PDF 1.53 MB)

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Regional evaluations

Yorkshire & Humber

Read about the key findings from this project which worked with 47 different organisations and delivered 119 projects to 17,492 older people.

Yorkshire & Humber evaluation report (PDF 831 KB)

East Midlands

Find out about the impacts of these tailor-made projects that delivered to over 13,000 older people in urban and rural communities throughout the region.

East Midlands executive summary (PDF 551 KB)

Social impact measurement report (PDF 1.8 MB)

North East

Read how the North East enabled 6,646 older people to participate in fit as a fiddle over a sustained period of time and about the impacts and outcomes.

North East evaluation report (PDF 1.79 MB)

Town and Bridge ActiveAge Centre project

An example report from the Eastern region, one of eight projects delivered in the region. Find out about the improved health and wellbeing of people living in areas of deprivation.

Town and Bridge evaluation report (PDF 1930 KB)


Read how the project adopted a community development approach, working with small community groups and in day centres and sheltered housing.

London evaluation report (PDF 633 KB)

West Midlands

Read about the impacts from classes and activities that have been held in community venues and residential care settings.

West Midlands evaluation report (PDF 496 KB)

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Fit as a fiddle extension programmes

  • Fit for the future

    Fit for the future worked to improve the physical and mental wellbeing of older people through the provision of integrated services and activities.
  • Cascade Volunteer Training Programme

    This project aimed to disseminate volunteering training packages to both local Age UKs and other organisations who work with older people.
  • Inspire and Include

    Inspire and Include is a project designed to encourage older disabled people to participate in sport
  • Dementia Friendly Programme

    This programme supported and enabled local Age UKs to assess how dementia friendly their wellbeing services were.

Further information

If you have any queries, or for further information, please contact us.

For more information call the Age UK Advice Line on 0800 169 65 65 (8am-7pm, 365 days a year).  


Last updated: Sep 20 2022

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