Older people's charity, Re-engage, is launching free online groups to give the over-75s in Wales the chance to participate in gentle exercise as they make connections with others.
The pilot, funded by the Welsh Government and supported by Dragons Rugby, aims to help older people increase their physical and mental wellbeing as the country prepares to come out of lockdown.
It also hopes to encourage more people in this age group to become familiar with the internet and online video conferencing platforms.
Re-engage has been working to reduce loneliness and social isolation in older people for over 50 years. In normal times, its face-to-face social gatherings support nearly 8,500 older guests through a network of 15,000 volunteers across the UK.
After launching a successful telephone befriending service as the pandemic hit the country last year, the charity is now exploring new ways to support older people online.
Kicking off with a choice of Chair Yoga, Tai Chi and general fitness, the groups will take place over Zoom, facilitated by instructors with experience of tailoring exercises specifically for older people, and will leave plenty of time for participants to chat.
According to ONS figures from 2019, approximately half of older people in Wales are now online. Re-engage is offering guidance to over-75s who may be able to use the internet but are unsure of how to access Zoom.
Re-engage Chief Executive Meryl Davies said: "The impact of these lockdowns has been brutal on older people who live on their own and it’s still an unknown as to when life will get back to normal. Becoming familiar with online platforms such as Zoom can make significant changes to people’s chances of making and keeping connections, so we’re really pleased to be working with the Welsh Government and the Dragons to drive this initiative.
"The groups will give older people something to break up their day, help them feel more connected to other people in similar circumstances, and give their health and wellbeing a welcome boost.”
Gareth Sullivan, Inclusion Officer at Dragons, said: “Social isolation and loneliness are more than an emotional experience, they can have huge mental and physical health implications. Re-engage and Dragons are committed to tackling this problem together by helping older people to re-engage with their communities through regular social contact, giving them a lifeline of friendship and, vitally, something to look forward to.”
Re-engage is running three online groups from this month in eight-week blocks. The groups are free to join and over-75s of all fitness levels are welcome.
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