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Walking Connects Coordinator, Charli Brunning, tells us how her led walks have made a lasting impact on participants experiencing feelings of loneliness in Lancashire.

Since July 2022, I have been working across Burnley, Blackburn with Darwen and Fleetwood, on Walking Connects, a project funded by the Department for Transport. The project uses walking, specifically led walks, as a tool to help reduce loneliness and isolation among adults over 50.

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Loneliness causes feelings of isolation from others, and not belonging. Chronic feelings of loneliness can have a deep impact on physical and mental health, as well as overall quality of life.

We have seen several retired adults joining us on our walks across the Walking Connects areas. Many have reported that the walks help boost their confidence and find purpose during this significant life change.

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Nearly half of older people say that television or pets are their main form of company. Another benefit of group walks is the opportunity to meet new people, and form long lasting friendships with those in similar life circumstances. Having a cuppa and some biscuits after our walks is also a lovely way to keep conversation flowing, and warm up during the harsh winter months in the Northwest of England. 

Some of the favourite walks I’ve organised have been in partnership with the Canal and River Trust, where we would set off on a 30-minute walk up and down the tow path, watching the boats going by and admiring the local wildlife. As the aim of the project is to reintroduce people to physical activity, short and accessible 20-to-30-minute walks are the key in Walking Connects.

The walks create a comfortable environment to a group of likeminded people with similar abilities and gives them the support of a group setting in which to thrive. As little as 10 minutes of brisk walking is enough to increase our energy levels, improve our mood and our mental alertness. Regular participation in group activities also increases our self-esteem and can reduce the onset or the effects of anxiety and depression.

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There’s something very special that Walking Connects has created and I am proud to say that I have been part of it. I hope to see the walks continue to flourish and bring years of happiness and connectedness to those previously dealing with daily feelings of loneliness in Lancashire.