Streets Apart – run by the charity Living Streets – arranges weekly walks for the over-65s. Here, project coordinator Tracey Chitnis explains why she is keen to see the initiative continue to grow over the summer
Streets Apart is a programme aiming to build confidence and enthusiasm for walking in your local neighbourhood, focused on the over-65s living in Redbridge, Havering and Barking and Dagenham who may have seen their lives restricted most by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Despite a strong start in 2019, successive lockdowns prevented our project from really flourishing, and although a handful of groups bonded early on and remained through the past two years, it is only now we really get the chance to reach out to the community and welcome them back to group walking. And a recent upsurge in participants tells us summer 2022 is the time to take part!
The health benefits of walking on a regular basis are outstanding: strengthening muscles, getting fresh air into the lungs and warming all the body’s organs. It’s easy and free, it adds interest to our daily chores and it fosters talking and socialising while raising awareness of the environment and neighbourhood. What’s not to like? Walking is perfectly suited to over-65s who wish to remain active and independent as the effects of age can limit other kinds of intensive exercise.
“I feel better, and it was nice to have someone to talk to. I enjoyed both the walk and walk leader, who has given me new information about where I live,” said one participant.
Our groups are small and local; with a maximum of eight walkers, everyone can get to know each other and can help decide the pace and distance. Our groups help rebuild social links, walking weekly in beautiful parks with space for calm and mental well-being. Each walk ends at a café to allow members to relax and talk further.
Many of our participants become walk leaders and maintain the groups as volunteers, allowing us to develop even more groups and reach more people. In the past two months, three new groups have sprung up and our existing groups are now filling up.
All our leaders are police-checked, trained and risk assess the routes. We support our volunteer leaders with training, regular catch-ups and travel expenses.
So, now the summer is here, the masks can come off and we can be together again, why not come along for a taster walk?
In Redbridge, groups are currently meeting in Fairlop Waters Country Park, Clayhall Park and Valentines Park, with one due to start soon in Wanstead. We also have a group that meets in Parsloes Park in Dagenham and one in St Chad’s Park in Chadwell Heath. We are interested in establishing a group in the Woodford area as well, so do get in touch if this is something you would like to be part of.
For more information about the Streets Apart groups, call 0756 678 9456 or email firstname.lastname@example.org