A New Health Walk for People in Nottingham
Trent Dementia offers monthly walks in Nottingham for anyone affected by dementia and I am the walk leader for the charity. In 2018 we introduced the Walk 1000 miles campaign by Country Walking magazine to people affected by dementia at our annual event, giving people step counters to measure the distance they walked each day. I trained as a walk leader with Ramblers and started our first walk in Wollaton Park. I went to Ramblers Walk leaders training and then I started promoting the weekly walk through Notts Guided Walk. Small numbers of people came, but it was challenging to get people involved because they were not confident about walking in a group or unsure about their fitness.
As we went through the experience of pandemic, we were all impacted by how hard it was to get out of the house especially at the beginning. We sometimes needed for a period to stay in our zones and not visit our family or friends. It was necessary but increased the isolation felt by people affected by dementia. We introduced the idea of virtual walks during our online meetings and started to share films of the local area to encourage people to plan new walks when they were able to leave the house again.
While working at different care homes with people living with dementia a few years ago, I could see that living with dementia could sometimes be an isolating experience. People mostly sitting in their own rooms and carers not having enough time to sit with them to have a chat sometimes. So, I always thought that if people could find some group activities to do that involved leaving home to get out and about, that would benefit them and their carers to have a chat and a laugh with each other and meet new people.
Alzheimer’s Society (2023) lists the benefits of walking for people living with dementia: improving sleep, cognition, mood, confidence, and self-esteem. It also mentions that physical activity can improve the health of heart and blood vessels, and reduce the risk of falls, stroke, diabetes and some types of cancer. It also helps maintain muscle and bone strength.
Interestingly, in Harvard Health Publishing, Godman (2022) writes, “There is no medication yet invented that can cut your risk of dementia by 50%. But walking about 10,000 steps per day might, suggests a study published online Sept. 6, 2022, by JAMA Neurology.” Godman (2022) writes that by just walking 3,800 steps per day, that is 1.8 miles, the risk of developing dementia would drop by 25 per cent.
So, it seems that walking does not only benefit people living with dementia, but also might help in reducing the risk of dementia in their family carers and supporters.
So, when we started the walking group after lockdown, we spoke to some people living with dementia and their carers. We decided on a time that might be more comfortable for people living with dementia and their family supporters to manage to come to a monthly walk. We decided on a monthly walk, because it seemed it would be more manageable for people living with dementia and their family supporters who are usually busy with crises and health issues and GP and hospital appointments. The walking group in Highfields Park started after the pandemic was successful. It grew in numbers and people started promoting the walk.
It seemed a sense of belonging was gradually forged. People started inviting their own friends. Now, we have two people living with dementia on wheelchairs who show up with their supporters. This is so great of an experience to be part of.
We decided, after consultation with our group and my project manager, to even gather in winter time for Christmas lunch and then for tea/coffee. It was important to keep the day as the day of our walk.
One of the things I learnt was that the walking area needs to be accessible by public transport. It needs to have a parking space available. It needs to be somewhere that people can easily get to if they wish. Also, I learnt that people living with dementia and their supporters also deal with low mood sometimes and it gets harder some days to get out of the house. So, I would happily wait 5-10 minutes at the starting location if they email or text me and say that they would be a bit late. It is great effort that they put into leaving their home to join the walk. Then, they can have a chat with the group members in the coffee shop and relax more.
I learnt also that the walking area needs to be flat and have a shorter and a longer route to give people choices and to be wheelchair accessible.
Now, my project manager and I are starting our second health walk in Nottingham.
So, come and join us if you wish on a free walk at Stonebridge City Farm. Our walk in this farm would be on second Thursday of each month at 11:30 AM – see the calendar on our walking group page for dates. Just email me or call me to ascertain that the walk is going ahead.
If you call this number, please leave your name and number so I could get back to you: 0115 74 84 220.
Or, you could write to me in an email to express interest: [email protected]