There are over 10.8 million older people in the UK, 3.8 million of whom live alone. Research from Age UK found that one million older people say they always, or often, feel lonely, and nearly one in five see their family, friends or neighbours less than weekly.
The 'walking friends’ concept builds on the idea that establishing community programmes based around the simple act of going for a walk could tackle loneliness by reducing isolation and encouraging new friendships - helping in the fight against depression and dementia.
Wythall Walking Friends has been shortlisted for Corporate Social Responsibility Project of the Year at the Charity Times Awards, which celebrates best practice in the UK charity sector.
Following the successful trial of the Walking Friends initiative in Birmingham, it was launched nationwide by Living Streets.
Joe Irvin, Chief Executive, Living Streets said:
“Loneliness is one of the biggest social challenges of our age. Wythall Walking Friends showed how much of an antidote to isolation a local walk can be, with those who joined us on the walks saying they felt more cheerful and connected afterwards.
“Wythall Walking Friends gave birth to something much bigger. The fantastic results enjoyed by the local community and Phoenix Group staff in Wythall left us very excited to see what could be achieved nationwide with a network of Walking Friends. We’re now seeing this happiness-inducing initiative spread across the UK, so I’m thrilled to see its pilot recognised at these awards.”
Lucy Symonds, Corporate Responsibility Manager, Phoenix Group said:
“The Wythall Walking Friends project has helped our colleagues utilise their volunteering time to give back to our local community – forging new friendships, increasing exercise and reducing loneliness in the over 65s. It’s great to see the change a small group of individuals can have on wider society.”
Representatives from Phoenix Group will attend the Charity Times Awards in London on Tuesday, 2 October, along with Living Streets, which is also nominated in the PR team of the Year category.