Making the pandemic a positive opportunity

We asked Walking for Health project - Bums Off Seats in Fife - to share their experience of the past year of lockdown, detailing how their project has adapted, faced up to new challenges and strived to keep going through the pandemic, including how they have supported people with dementia.

Dalgety Bay Health Walk

Like so many others when we went into lockdown the physical activity team at Fife Council was re-deployed to Emergency Resilience.  The first few weeks whilst everyone who was not essential stayed at home, we helped with sorting, packing, and delivering truckloads of food to food banks and community hubs. 

I was now communicating with the Walk Leader team by email. We sent out regular updates, check-ins and wellbeing tips to keep them motivated.  As our roles developed our skills were matched to other essential roles, Fiona to support care homes, Ann to manage the data and I was managing the community coordinators who were delivering the community volunteer response. 

Alongside this, we were working with HR and Public Health to provide physical activity and wellbeing to keep staff and volunteers active.  As part of this, we were delivering a weekly programme of activity through newsletters and other media channels. 

The annual May Walking Challenge for care homes (and everyone else) was still completed in our localities.  Our Walk Leaders were walking in their local area checking in with walkers who were not getting out.  Keeping everyone connected by using social media, phone calls and sending around lots of jokes.

As time went on, we were able to re-start route-finding and risk assessing.  We knew that the shape of the programme would need to change so we made an early start and engaged those volunteers that were able to do this. 

We recruited new volunteers as we wanted to ensure that we had additional support on the walks to allow as many people as possible who wanted to return to be able to do so.  The message went out on social media, through our Health and Social Care connections and of course through our Walk Leader's own networks.

We also took the opportunity to change our admin systems and start using a new database.  This was a task that we would not have undertaken if we were not working in different ways. 

The walking programme returned initially in bubbles that followed the Covid-19 protocols band as confidence grew we matched demand by having more people walking together. Whilst in the tier system we continued to support those that were vulnerable by providing online content on Facebook and YouTube.

Working with our care homes we increased activity for those with dementia and other long-term conditions.  Our annual Go For Gold event went online and 500 athletes (older adults in care or daycare groups) participated in sporting, fun events.  Whilst this was continuing the physical activity team were looking at improving participation numbers in the over 65 age category and those that are frail or have long term conditions.   

As we come out of our second lockdown, we are again working with HR to provide workshops and activities online. We are working with Generations Working Together to develop a dementia friendly resource for older adults and children around social, mental and physical wellbeing.  Our monthly training programme can now be hosted digitally, and we are starting work on our May Walking Challenge and our annual Go For Gold event, to be virtual once again.   

Thank you to Bums Off Seats project coordinator Vivienne McNiven, with Fife Council, for reflecting on Health Walks during the current pandemic. 

Find out more about Bums off Seats Health Walks on our website