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Volunteers' Week is a long-standing, popular event in the voluntary sector, established in 1984. It is supported and celebrated by small grassroots organisations as well as larger, household-name charities, who together run hundreds of events across the UK. These events showcase and celebrate volunteers and the contribution volunteering makes in our communities.
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Fitness and Friendship Clubs run across the county providing an opportunity for the older adult to spend around 50 minutes doing gentle exercise that is designed to help maintain independence and promote balance. They are social clubs with an emphasis on keeping active and staying healthy.
We spoke to 2 recently new volunteers at the Fitness & Friendship Club in Calne….
Denise Barnard's Story
Denise Barnard is a leader of the Age UK Wiltshire Fitness and Friendship Club based in Calne and has taken on this role after previously being a participant in the group for 12 months. She initially started shadowing one of the volunteers and then undertook training to be able to lead her own sessions.
Denise was a manager at Women’s Fitness for 8 years and now works in Domiciliary Care and she has a real passion for helping people become more active and therefore become more independent.
The Low Impact Functional Training course gave Denise the confidence to be able to lead sessions on her own. It provided support with the admin side of leading sessions as well as how to adapt exercises to suit a range of people.
Seeing people become stronger and more independent through exercise is really rewarding and Denise has noticed through her domiciliary work how quickly some people can deteriorate. Denise see’s the benefits of people staying physically active and how it keeps them healthier for longer.
Volunteering has helped Denise focus on getting back into regular exercise herself as she had become rather relaxed over the past 3 years and she says, “it’s too easy to just stay at home and do nothing.”
Denise would love to take this programme into care homes where older people are more restricted and can’t make it out to the sessions.
When planning and preparing sessions, Denise will practice the activities on her husband who has said ‘this is amazing’ and has found it to be very beneficial for him too. When he’s not working, he now comes along and joins in her sessions.
At the moment Fitness & Friendship Clubs are delivered fortnightly and only term time, but Denise would like to deliver them weekly and throughout the year to ensure sustainability and keep peoples interest and activity levels high. If Denise hadn’t become a volunteer leader the sessions would have had to come to an end.
Denise believes that getting people together on these types of sessions are so important and beneficial for social, mental and physical aspects.
This session maybe the only activity and interaction with people all week, it’s so important to be able to offer this service.
Denise loves being a volunteer and would encourage anyone who has the time and inclination to help others to ‘Give it a go!’.
Heather Osak's Story
Heather Osak been volunteering as a leader at the Wiltshire Age UK Fitness and Friendship club based in Calne, Wiltshire.
Heather has held voluntary roles in the past as an Age Concern befriender for about 2-3 yrs which involved her looking after an elderly lady. She would go to her home and keep her company, make sure she was ok and took her out on day trips.
Heather has always had an interest in sport and fitness and used to be a Volleyball instructor when she was in the Forces. She decided to become more involved in working with people and was interested to use sport and fitness of a way to do this.
As a social person she gets great satisfaction from the role and enjoys seeing people achieve their goals with a smile.
One of the challenges Heather has found is making sure her sessions are suitable for variety of people and their various physical differences. She has had to learn a lot about the different types of disability and how to make sure people exercise safely.
Heather finds that volunteering as a leader is very rewarding and as she loves meeting new people and making them smile, it gives her much pleasure.
The Low Impact Functional Training course Heather attended before becoming a leader for Age UK enabled her to learn many new skills, including lesson planning, timings and teaching activities for the appropriate level for all to enjoy. She has enjoyed learning new exercises and how to use new equipment like resistance bands.
The Fitness and Friendship Clubs provide not only a chance to socialise but to be more physically active, which helps many older people become more mobile and increase their confidence. If Heather hadn’t taken on the lead volunteer role the class would have come to an end.
Heather would recommend volunteering to friends and family and is often telling people how rewarding she finds it. Its great to see people enjoying themselves and smiling throughout the sessions. It is also a great benefit to the community.
Sally Evans, Senior Project Worker for Age UK, who is training the the Fitness and Friendship Leaders across Wiltshire says this about the Volunteers. "They're great! Without volunteers our fitness and friendship service may not have survived. They bring a wealth of experience to the charity and with some additional training, gain in confidence to teach physical activity to older people."