People living with long-term health conditions in County Durham will be among the first to benefit from a pilot scheme that encourages being physically active to help manage their health and wellbeing.
We Are Undefeatable is a targeted pilot project run by Durham County Council to assist people with conditions in Ferryhill, Chilton and the surrounding areas take part in physical activity.
County Durham is one of 10 activation areas in the UK chosen to run a ‘place-based’ pilot scheme, to support the We Are Undefeatable campaign, a movement supporting people with a range of long-term health conditions. It has been developed by 15 leading health and social care charities and backed by expertise, insight and National Lottery funding from Sport England.
The pilot will be delivered by the council’s culture, sport and tourism team. The location was selected due to its history of long-term health conditions and the likelihood of its residents living with poor health for up to 16 years longer than average.
One resident who knows the benefits of staying active is 89-year old Des who has Alzheimer’s disease and still lives in his own home not far from Ferryhill.
Before lockdown Des attended various groups and was very active in his community, even going to teaching workshops at Durham University and the University of Sunderland to help social work students gain experience of working with people living with dementia. However, due to his age and other health conditions, he had to shield himself during the pandemic, limiting his opportunities to stay active.
Instead of letting confinement get the better of him, with support from his family, Des created an exercise programme for himself to make sure he maintained his mobility and strength in his legs.
Sitting at his dinning room table, using this as a support, he now does 10 sit-to-stand exercises after breakfast, followed by another 10 after lunch and a further 10 after tea. To maintain his walking, Des uses TV programmes to schedule the activity into his day.
During advert breaks, he gets his trolley and pushes it up and down his lounge for as long as he can manage. Sometimes he can build up to 45 minutes over the day.
Des said: “With all my health problems I should be in pain or not able to do what I do, but doing my little routines has kept me walking and actually I am more steady with my walking stick than before lockdown.”
“Some days my legs are off, but I persevere with the help of my trolley and I’m only in pain when my knee goes. Doing my little routines has helped keep me mobile during the lockdown.”
Des’s daughter Sue said: “We knew from research that helping dad build a suitable and sustainable exercise regime would support him to maintain his independence. It’s all down to him though and his commitment to keep going. We’re really proud of him.”
Des is supported by the Dementia Advice and Support Service, which supports those with memory problems or a diagnosis of dementia in County Durham.
Rowena Carr, dementia support worker at the Dementia Advice and Support Service, said: “Des is a real inspiration to anyone living with dementia, he is living proof that regular exercise no matter what form can have a positive impact on health and wellbeing.”
Liz Oakes, project co-ordinator, said: “We know that being more active can help make people healthier and happier and we understand that how someone feels can change from day to day. We want to meet people with long-term health conditions to share their experiences and demonstrate how activity can help reduce anxiety and fatigue; improve self-confidence, self-esteem and general mood; and prevent additional conditions from developing.”
Cllr James Rowlandson, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for resources, investment and assets, said: “We are delighted that residents in County Durham will benefit from this pilot scheme. There’s never been a more important time for those with long-term conditions to stay as active as they possibly can and I’m sure that many people will be able to improve their health and wellbeing.”
To contact the Dementia Advice and Support Service call 0191 389 0400 or email [email protected]
To find out more about the We are Undefeatable campaign or receive links to the service, contact Liz Oakes either by emailing [email protected] or calling 07519883701. More details on the campaign are at www.weareundefeatable.co.uk/