New walking group helps combat isolation
Isolation is a problem for the elderly, especially those living alone and even more so when one has a visual impairment.
Combating isolation can take many forms and one of the most successful ways is through group activities.
In September a walking group was set up by some of our blind veterans living in the North East of the country with the aim of supporting members by encouraging them to engage in purposeful activity, keep physically and emotionally fit and keep connected.
The group started with just two members, both life-long walkers who found it difficult to go out with other walking groups due to their sight loss. With this new group they are really enjoying the opportunity to get out in the fresh air again.
The group calls itself “The Last Three” out of deference to their service history – referring to the last three digits of their service numbers (which servicemen and women never forget).
The title was thought up by blind veteran Hedley, 84 and ex- RAF. He was called up for National Service in 1953 and spent his service time at RAF Lindholme, Bomber Command School.
Hedley said, “Before suffering sight loss, due to age related macular degeneration, I was a very keen walker and in my youth I thought nothing of walking 20 miles a day in the mountains”.
The walks so far undertaken by The Last Three are not quite so strenuous, nor as ambitious, but are an opportunity for the blind veterans, in one case accompanied by his wife and another takes his guide dog, to get out in the fresh air, get some good exercise and, most importantly, have the opportunity to socialise with others.
"I live alone and know from my own experience that sight loss can be very isolating. It makes it difficult to meet up with other people and this is especially so here in Northumberland which is a big county and difficult to get between towns using public transport. I hope with more members joining the group some will live locally to me so we can get together on a regular basis."Blind veteran Hedley
The group meet on the first Tuesday of each month and have so far completed five walks. Their age range is 84-91 and it is hoped to increase the group as more volunteer help becomes available.
The aim of the group is for them to do a circular walk of around 3 miles somewhere in Northumberland. So far the group has walked Newbiggin Promenade, Queen Elizabeth II Country Park Ashington, Low Hauxley Nature Reserve and Carlisle Park Morpeth.
Hedley described their first walk of 2019, “It was a very chilly, but sunny, day but we all had the right gear on and the pace was quite brisk. The low winter sun is a problem for many with sight loss as it dazzles what little vision I have. We managed over 3 miles walking along the Northumberland coast taking in Warkworth Castle and Amble Marina along the way. Quella, the guide dog, had a wonderful time racing ahead along the beach. It was a great day to be out and about, walking along the deserted beach on unblemished sand and hearing the crashing waves although the cold at times took one’s breath away”.
The walk ended at a café for welcome hot drinks and food. A great end to a great day. Everyone is looking forward to the next one.