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Denise discusses tough topics

Denise Welch, wearing an Age UK t-shirt

"There is a lot of goodness in the world, and there is joy to be found.”

Age UK meets Denise Welch to discuss tackling life's challenges.



Denise Welch is never short of something to say, particularly when it comes to topics close to her heart. Age UK met her recently for a post-match chinwag.

It’s a scorching day in Wigan when we meet Denise Welch. The actor and television presenter, best known as a panellist on Loose Women, is here for a friendly kickabout at a women-only session as part of the Age UK Walking Football Programme. And while Denise admits to not being the biggest devotee of The Beautiful Game, being from North Tyneside she’s a proud Newcastle United fan and admits to being swept up in England’s victory in the UEFA Women’s Euros in July.

Despite being buoyed by the success of the Lionesses, Denise assumed she’d “be treading water” on the pitch today, but ended up throwing herself passionately into the game. “I’ve surprised myself,” she laughs afterwards. “I didn’t think I was a competitive person but at some points I was taking it very seriously indeed.”

Denise is similarly serious about the subjects that matter to her, as illustrated by her chat with Age UK, in which she discusses everything from the importance of maintaining one's mental and physical health, to describing how her beloved father’s death has had a profound effect upon how, aged 64, she lives her life today.

How did you enjoy your first taste of walking football?

“I enjoyed it! What was fantastic was seeing the camaraderie and the fun and the joy that it brought to everyone. Nobody knows what’s going on in people’s lives, so it’s lovely to support each other and get together. Even if people don’t like football, I’m sure they’ll enjoy it.”

Your fellow Loose Women panellist, Kaye Adams, is going to be on Strictly Come Dancing. Are you a fan of dance as a way to keep fit?

“I’m an alright dancer. My husband is the worst dancer in the entire universe, so I try not to dance a lot with him because it’s just too embarrassing. I suggested to the gym I go to that they introduce an 80s dance class, and we all put on our leg warmers and headbands and did it. Dance, with a bit of added fun, is such an incredible way to keep fit.”

There’s obviously a vital social aspect to these activities. Why is this more important than ever?

"I was talking to my friend’s mum recently and she used to walk a lot and she’d have friends around."

In my experience, in the last two years a lot of people who’ve previously had quite active social lives have lost their confidence.

Denise Welch

"My mum's friend told me that she’d lost her confidence to drive and her joie de vivre, as it were, and generally couldn’t be bothered anymore. So I’ll definitely be recommending that she finds a walking football group like this near her to get back out there.”

You’re very open about your mental health. How important is it to just be able to talk to others when we have these opportunities to get together?

“If you come to something like this, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be talking about how you feel. Just communicating with others is enough. The chances are, if you are feeling a certain way, there will be other people who will be feeling the same way as you. I’ve just heard the rest of the group today having lunch and opening up about things. Mentally, I think activities like this are a wonderful thing.”

Your father sadly died in September. What has his loss taught you?

“As you get older, it’s inevitable that you lose people. My dad was a very funny guy and I loved him dearly. I’ve had an amazing response from the public. I was always with my dad, he was my best friend, so a lot of the people who follow me on social media and watch Loose Women knew dad even if they’d never met him before. And so a lot of people opened up to me about losing their dad, or losing their partner, or losing someone special, whoever that was.

“Before he died, we went to a cremation at a place he would ultimately end up being buried with my mum and he said, ‘I need a season ticket for this place’. He’d find humour in things, but you could also sense he thought he was the last man standing, having lost so many people. We’re making sure to keep an eye on my mum-in-law, who’s a very fit and active 75-year-old, but she’s just lost her cousin who was like a sister to her, so that has been a blow for her." 

I think it’s important that we all remember to enjoy the time that we have left.

Denise Welch

“Another thing that’s important to me is to try and take breaks from social media and the news. We all have to be informed, of course, but in the last two or three years we’ve had nothing but bad news. But there is a lot of goodness in the world too, and there is joy to be found, so sometimes we need to be around other people to remember that.”

You’ve made reference to learning from your father’s example. How are you doing that?

“My dad was 84 when he died. For 83-and-a-half of those years, he didn’t have more than a bad cold and he lived every single moment to the full. He was part of my social network and did a lot of work for charity. He just loved life, so when he died, my husband and I had a chat and decided we weren’t getting our work-life balance right, so we’ve decided to address that a little bit. That doesn’t mean going on pricey holidays, given that we’re in this cost of living crisis; that could mean just getting together with friends.”

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Last updated: Oct 19 2022

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