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Stepping into Spring

Published on 25 April 2024 11:07 AM

Whether it’s by walking, running, or wheeling, just 30 minutes a day spent outside is proven to boost happiness, reduce anxiety and help us sleep better. 

After the long, cold days of winter there is nothing better than to witness nature evolve again, dusting off its frosty veil and casting a spell of rich warmth and colour over our surroundings. Promises of hope and renewal drift through on a fresh breeze, rustling tree branches and weaving clouds into soft spirals. Soon we are greeted with bright, blue, water-coloured skies as wildlife awakens and the sun paints every surface with an amber glow. It is during spring that we welcome a renewed sense of wellbeing and opportunity, beginning to fully engage with our natural environment again. With this May being ‘National Walking Month’, it is the perfect opportunity to embrace springtime and the mental and physical health benefits the outdoors can provide. Whether it’s by walking, running, or wheeling, just 30 minutes a day spent outside is proven to boost happiness, reduce anxiety and help us sleep better.

Elspeth Sitters (pictured) founded the charity in 1942

Across the decades, Age UK Plymouth has been committed to helping older people stay active and included in their community. The Elspeth Sitters House, former centre for Plymouth Age Concern, opened in 1982 and facilitated the coordination of many inclusive and accessible activity groups. For instance, groups such as ‘the Happy Wanderers’ met regularly at the centre to run a walking programme for clients and their families around Plymouth. These walks, often taking place in Central Park or Plymouth Hoe, gave older people the opportunity to socialise, feel less isolated, and continue a sense of independence. Gentle exercise classes also ran from within the centre to promote the importance of physical activity on the improvement of health and wellbeing. Throughout the years, Age UK Plymouth has continued this commitment with recent fitness programmes such as ‘Walking Football’ and this May’s fundraising challenge ‘50 Miles Your Way’ which help encourage individuals of all abilities to get active in whichever way they feel comfortable. Down in the South-West, we have many natural spaces on our doorstep to enjoy and take part in this challenge in support of Age UK Plymouth.

Step Out for Age UK Plymouth

However, we can still take part and experience the beauty of the outdoors closer to home. Simple ways to engage with nature include finding a warm, sunny spot by an open window or a taking a gentle stroll around the garden if you have one. Gardens can be a microcosm for all spring has to offer, whether it’s the fresh sprinkling of daisies across the grass or the sight of robins peeking out from their leafy hideaways. Adding a bird feeder to your garden or windowsill can also bring nature closer to home, the act of bird-watching providing a moment of solace from any troubling thoughts.

This year, Dementia Awareness Week also runs from the 13th to the 19th May, aiming to break stigma and campaign to improve the lives of anyone affected.

As flowers bloom and the environment thrives, the arrival of spring brightens our senses and gives rise to new sights, smells, textures, and sounds. For those living with dementia, everyday life can be an isolating experience as brain function slows down, interfering with memory, concentration and sensory awareness. Studies have found, however, that spending time outdoors and getting active can be greatly beneficial for those with dementia, acting as a source of comfort, helping them to feel more connected with their environment, and even stimulating memories. Since our physical senses are so closely entwined with the mind, outdoor spaces can reawaken past experiences; for some, nature is where passions lie, or where their happiest memories took place. It is important that no one should feel defined by a dementia diagnosis; the joys of spring are for everyone. 

When Elspeth Sitters founded the organisation now known as Age UK Plymouth, many older people throughout the city were facing isolation in the aftermath of the Second World War. In the midst of current challenges such as the Covid-19 pandemic and the cost of living crisis, Age UK Plymouth continues to offer a range of support to older people and their families. If you think our services would be of benefit to you, a loved one or a friend, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

by Darcy Hart, Communications Volunteer

  • Darcy graduated from the University of Plymouth with an English degree and began her career at Age UK Plymouth in November 2023. She is currently working in the Information and Advice Department as an Administrative Assistant, helping our clients to reach the support they need.