Before lockdown, the idea of going out for a walk rarely crossed Eileen Cooper’s mind.
That’s despite her daughter leading a number of walking groups as part of the Active Dearne project in Denaby. But, as with us all, lockdown provided new challenges and new opportunities.
For the 83-year old, she’s taken the opportunity to walk, and is loving the benefits.
“I’ve been living in this bungalow for ten years,” said Eileen, “and I knew there was one park near me – I’ve now found out there are three! I usually just get in my car, turn it on and away.
“I’ve been amazed at the opportunities I’ve had to just say ‘hello’ to people. I’ve got to know so much more about the people who live near me.
“I have walked a little bit further each day. Each time I’ve felt a little bit stronger in my legs, I’ll go a bit further. And this is how I’ve found these two new parks. The last time I did this much walking, I was probably in my teens!”
Eileen’s walks from her bungalow haven’t just been for herself. She’s made masks for friends, and delivered homemade scones on her ever increasing trips out. On the days the weather means she can’t go out for a walk, she will do chair-based exercises that she received in an email from Paul Cummins, Active Dearne Project Manager.
The email shared ways to be active and the benefits it could bring. But it’s not the first time Eileen has been advised that walking could boost her health. When returning from Ghana almost a decade ago, she required a double heart valve replacement, with her physio telling her that walking would be beneficial. Yet still, her car would be the preferred mode of transport for almost all journeys.
“Paul and I had a close relationship from the first meeting. He was smiley, inclusive, and gave people opportunities. Sometimes people give you advice and it’s good, but you have to evaluate if that’s right for me.
“But this time, the invite and the opportunity was so different. And that’s why I listened. It’s how you approach that person can make a massive difference.
“On Paul’s email, there was a list of exercises. I haven’t done exercises for a long time. The last time was probably aerobics around two years ago. But now, if I can’t go out for my walk then I’ll do my exercises. I’ll move my arms and my legs.
“Walking around the bungalows near me would have been an achievement not so long ago. Now I’m going much further. I feel fitter and that I’ve accomplished something.
“There are days where I don’t feel like doing it, but I have the motivation now to go and walk.”
With lockdown continuing to ease, many people could be tempted to return to the familiarity of their previous way of living. Quite frankly, who could blame them?
And whilst Eileen may return to some older habits, her new walking habit is one that’s here to stay.
“When this virus is over, I will still walk. Because I still want to meet my neighbours, and be an encouragement to those around me.
“Walking’s for everybody. When somebody mentions walking, then an elderly person often can’t be bothered. You can meet people, and you can’t meet people from your armchair. Going out and getting a smile back is great.
“I never thought I’d have those experiences. I’ve had lots of life experiences, but I’ve had an extension to those experiences over those weeks, and it’s been a privilege.”