Walking with a wide range of people

Most people imagine being a volunteer walking buddy revolves around walking with an older person on a gentle walk, and sometimes that is exactly what it is, and very nice it is too.  
 
But I’ve been amazed how many people from all walks of life, I and many of my fellow volunteers, have supported over the last couple of years; it is most definitely not ‘one size fits all’.

Enabling an older person to get out in the fresh air

The first woman I was paired up with is a strong-minded nonagenarian. At 91, Dohreen’s an independent, no-nonsense Lancastrian whose aim was to feel more confident to get out of her home on her own. She had always walked around the corridors of her sheltered housing, but to go outdoors on her own was a little daunting. 

We walked weekly for several months, her on her stroller, me at her side come rain or shine, with the aim of getting to the second lamp post down the street and back.

Our conversations were full of stories of her childhood, grand children and the books she had been reading, as well as noticing the change in seasons and the flowers in her neighbours' gardens. 

Sadly lockdown put a stop to our walks, but we continue our friendship over the phone, and we talk of the time when we will walk together again. 

Building confidence and reducing anxiety

Earlier this year I was paired with a younger woman in her late 20s whose anxiety and depression had seen her lack the confidence to get out of her own house. 

At our first meeting she was nervous, shy and a bit low. She perked up considerably when I took her up a small nondescript path which lead to a wonderful hilltop view of Walmgate Stray and Low Moor Allotments. She lived only 5 minutes away from this spot, but as only a recent resident of the area, she had no idea such a beautiful open space was on her doorstep. 

We walked more and more - chatting to the cows, enjoying the fresh air and marvelling at the trees. She was a different woman when we arrived back to her home - refreshed, happier and growing in confidence.

The feeling after a walk brought us both so much joy, for me as well as for her. 

Enabling exercise following an injury

More recently I stepped in to walk with a woman in her 40s as her regular Move Mate was away. 

Charlene had had a head injury 3 years ago which saw her walking with two sticks, the accident affecting the way her brain communicated with her legs, which sometimes sees her unsteady and occasionally fall. She has an ambitious goal to walk the York 10k, but at the moment an hour long session will see her walk just a few hundred metres. 

Her injury also saw her lose her job in the health service and her ability to be a regular stand up comic, a part of her life she loved. Losing her every day contacts, being largely housebound and loneliness and depression creeping in, were additional knock-on effects of her accident. 

A walk with Charlene, however, is a blast. The stories, the banter, the jokes and her quick wit sees me laughing almost to tears. 

And for Charlene, those walks are a life saver.

It’s not just the physical therapy that is teaching her to walk again, it is the human interaction, and the fun of being with someone, that has become the highlight of her week. 

And those are just a few of my Move Mate stories. I am honoured to have heard many more:

  • There’s the young lady who suffered sudden loss of sight who now runs with her Move Mate.
  • The older woman who wanted to walk with someone and chat in Arabic. 
  • The autistic young man whose one request was to walk with a dog as well as a buddy and now has a new canine friend.
  • The fit middle aged woman who when diagnosed with early onset dementia thought her days of running were over, but who is now training for a 10k with her Move Mate.
  • The middle aged woman with chronic fatigue whose Move Mate helps her get out and about. 

And then there is a supportive crew of very special volunteers who make all this possible.

Move Mates is open to anyone over 18, absolutely anyone who needs a helping hand to get out and about, for whatever reason. 

Move the Masses pair people up carefully and volunteers go the extra mile to enhance their beneficiary’s life. 

I love being a Move Mate and I really ponder who benefits more when I set out for a walk, my beneficiary or me.