Halton Safe Walks - Be Active, Connect, Give
The original idea for the Halton Walk Safe project was developed from existing work in north west England around older people exploring walking routes around their estates. Having seen how successful this approach had been, Groundwork in Mersey Valley decided to build on their existing local knowledge about the residents in their area, and use their networks to promote the initiative and gauge whether it could literally ‘gain legs'. They already had links with local agencies such as Age Concern and knew that they wanted to support and work with older people who were currently leading semi-sedentary lifestyles.
This project has a clear impact on positive mental wellbeing by providing a series of ‘close to home' walks using local parks and green spaces. These help to build confidence and trust among older people at risk of exclusion from their local communities to go outdoors. By training local volunteers to act as walking guides who accompany the walkers, the project helps those who participate to engage in gentle exercise, explore new routes and meet their neighbours. Young people in the local area also got involved through the Jobs Fund in the area and gained valuable work experience.
Two local residents are the current walk leaders and two more are being trained. Keeping all leaders local and having continuity is key to success. They know the area, they know everyone's names and they can build up trust and confidence in those who are hesitant and shy at first.
Again, local partnerships have been key to the success of this project. Halton Walk Safe partners have included local health care providers, social housing providers, care homes and older people support services who helped to promote and recruit participants. Natural England was also involved by setting out training opportunities for local volunteers and providing guidance on risk assessment.
Unabridged version: Halton Walk Safe, Halton, Merseyside
15 September 2011