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GREEN LIGHT TRUST: Scheme will offer opportunity for Suffolk retired people to take part in woodland activities

Participants on the Woodland Active programme working in Holywells Park, Ipswich ANL-150503-154100001
Participants on the Woodland Active programme working in Holywells Park, Ipswich ANL-150503-154100001

Statistics have shown that after retirement, many older people can experience isolation, loneliness, exclusion, cognitive memory loss, and take a more sedentary lifestyle.

These conditions can make them vulnerable to frailty and serious health issues like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and depression.

Big Lottery Fund ANL-150203-111405001
Big Lottery Fund ANL-150203-111405001

Opportunities for exercise, social interaction, learning new skills and maintaining cognitive health are vital for keeping older people healthier for longer. Woodland Active is an educational programme delivered by Green Light Trust which aims to better the lives of older people through woodland activities which provide exercise and stimulation.

The outdoor activities will benefit the health and well-being of older people by providing new skills and knowledge, increase and sustain activity, encourage social interaction and retain links to the rest of the community.

The programme is aimed at people over the age of 60 who are retired and at risk of leading sedentary lifestyles, providing them with the opportunity to become healthier and more active.

The programme consists of once a week activity sessions, lasting for a 12-week period.

Although subject to seasonal variation, activities will include tree identification, pruning trees, cutting willow, willow weaving, coppicing work, weeding, collecting saplings, and tree planting.

Using Green Light Trust’s Foundry Learning Centre, Golden Wood, and Frithy Wood, participants will receive an informal education about countryside ecology and will participate in conservation activities.

Through these activities the project aims to keep active the minds and bodies of older people to ensure that they have better chances in life after retirement. Participants will be taught about flora and fauna, biodiversity, and conservation and will have an opportunity to research and share knowledge through weekly presentations and homework tasks.

According to The State of Suffolk Report 2011, the most common chronic health conditions experienced by the Suffolk population include: high blood pressure, depression, asthma, diabetes, and coronary heart disease. It is widely accepted that regular physical activity can aid the maintenance of good health and consequently decrease the demand on the public purse for medical treatment. I

In Suffolk, 46.1 per cent of the population do not participate in any weekly exercise, which translates to health costs of over £10 million a year. Furthermore, the number of older people in Suffolk is rising which increases the demand on health and social care services.

All age groups should be encouraged to live active lifestyles, but by focusing on older people we are targeting those most at risk of being less active and suffering as a result of this.

Psychological and social state as well as physical activity are important determinants of frailty in older people according to The State of Suffolk’s Strengthening Our Approach to Frailty report.

In the Feel Better Outside, Feel Better Inside report 2013, the charity Mind has proved that Ecotherapy is a cost-effective way of improving physical and mental well-being. The Ecominds scheme has shown that outdoor activities such as gardening, food growing, and environmental conservation work had a real positive impact on people’s lives with 69 per cent of participants experiencing significant increases in well-being and 81 per cent felt more connected to the community.

Green Light Trust has established very good contacts in the health service as a result of our work with people known to the service eg. mental health and disability patients. We will publicise the opportunity to become involved through the commissioning service, GP practices and pharmacies and work with our contacts in sheltered housing and older people living locally in residential homes to arrange evening information sessions to recruit people. We will also use displays at community events at community centres.

We have contact with 63 communities of which 50 per cent are within reasonable travelling distance of the project site. We know these communities are keen to support this project and we will engage them in publicising it. Finally, we will provide posters for the local Post Offices in villages around Lawshall.

Green Light Trust gratefully acknowledges the funding that it has received through Big Lottery-Awards for All which has supported this programme.

For more information, contact: 01284 830829 or email jane@greenlighttrust.org