A New Seniors’ Program Combats Loneliness and Promotes Good Health

Walking and talking together on empty cricket fields.


Health, Wellness

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With the National Council on Aging recommending a weekly regiment of moderate exercise and strength training for seniors, it’s no wonder that a “Walkers and Talkers” program promoted by a former Gloucestershire cricketer in Bristol, England, has found success. What’s unusual about the fitness program started by Andy Brassington is that there’s a social element built right into the agenda.

"It is very effective—bringing people together for a walk is a brilliant way to combat loneliness,” Brassington told the BBC. After recognizing the positive impact of group walks on the mental well-being of his former cricket team members during the pandemic, 68-year-old Brassington established Walkers and Talkers with the aim of promoting mental health by providing a social component as a reason to exercise.

Companionship or exercise
Many non-profits provide companionship for seniors. For example, for mobile seniors, DOROT's mission is to assist those 60+ in leaving their homes and navigating their communities. Their organization matches seniors with volunteers who offer companionship and assistance during neighborhood walks and other local excursions.

Other programs promote physical exercise for seniors. SilverSneakers is a program that caters to adults aged 65 and above, with a focus on health and fitness, according to Healthline. The program offers several benefits such as access to gym facilities, fitness classes for seniors, online resources for workouts, nutrition and fitness tips, and a supportive community of participants both online and in-person. With thousands of participating gyms across the country, SilverSneakers is widely available for interested seniors.

In research conducted under the auspices of the National Institutes of Health, Drs. Kenneth Kell and Elizabeth Rula concluded that SilverSneakers participants with more frequent gym visits had better physical and mental component scores on specific tests, and fewer physically and mentally unhealthy days. Participants who increased their average weekly visits to the gym longitudinally also saw improvements in all outcome measures used in the study. Their conclusion was that SilverSneakers participation frequency was associated with higher quality of life for seniors.

A different aim
Walkers and Talkers has a different aim. A collaborative project between the Gloucestershire Cricket Trust and Finders Keepers Sports & Marketing, Walkers and Talkers is hosted weekly in the Seat Unique Stadium, the Gloscricket reports.

With the goal of reducing the feelings of loneliness and social isolation that are felt by so many seniors, the Wednesday meetings include a stroll around the cricket grounds to enable conversation, a complimentary “cuppa” (cup of tea), and a talk from a local sports personality, according to Gloscricket.

"It is the most simple idea in the world, anyone is welcome, and every session is fun,” Brassington told the BBC. Brassington recently won the Outstanding Contribution Award for his initiative at the Professional Cricketers Association dinner. "It is phenomenal to come to a session and see so many people walking together, it made me emotional," one group member told the BBC.

Expanding the program
With more than 100 members and a Facebook page, the talking part of the program “gives us all plenty of time to catch up and put the world to rights with our fellow members,” Brassington wrote in a featured post.

The popularity of Walkers and Talkers has produced an expansion of the program to other counties, with a free six-month pilot sponsored by the Somerset Cricket Foundation through August at the County Cricket Club in Taunton.

Following the initial Taunton session, the group was treated to a talk by former Somerset cricketer Pete Trego.

"It was a great turnout, what a fantastic idea, I hope all counties across the country will take it on," he told the BBC. "It gives anyone the excuse to get out and about and meet new people."

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