Author: Danny Dhadda

Health Trainers: still here – still changing lives!

Over the last few months, since the Health Trainers service was recommissioned, we’ve been changing the way we work very slightly. We’ve brought in some part time roles, we’ve started specifically reaching out to people who are a little more vulnerable, and we’ve increased how flexible we are in our working hours to allow us to better support clients in the evenings and at weekends. Overall, though, the message is still the same: Health Trainers can change your life!

This week we’re especially pleased to welcome some new Health Trainers to our team, including two brand new recruits, Daniela and Margaret.

DanielaDaniela comes to us having worked as a psychologist in her home country of Slovakia. She says, “I can’t wait to work as a Health Trainer and have the opportunity to use my skills to motivate and inspire others. I’ve seen from my experience in psychology how close the link is between health and happiness so I think it’s amazing that a role like this exists – one-to-one support that helps people to make long term lifestyle changes. I’ve always been interested in healthy living and I love helping people so I’m really looking forward to the challenge.”

MargaretMargaret has spent the last fifteen years as a community and youth worker for Birmingham City Council. She says, “I’m passionate about getting the health message out there, and I love it when I get the opportunity to empower people to make positive changes, so I can’t wait to get my teeth into this role. I’ve been working with young people for a long time, so I’m excited about the chance to support people of all ages as a Health Trainer. Although I’ve worked in health all of my life, I know there’s always something new to find out, so I’m looking forward to learning from the Gateway team!”

Gateway Health Trainers is a free, confidential service that supports people to improve their health and wellbeing by helping them to make beneficial lifestyle changes. We work with clients both one-to-one and in groups, helping them to set achievable goals, giving them the information and confidence they need to maintain changes permanently, so that when our support ends they can continue to live a healthier, happier lifestyle.

Over the years we’ve learned that we can add value to our support by offering extra activities on top of the regular appointments. We’ve found that when people join groups it’s good for their wider wellbeing and they’re more likely to sustain changes, so we now offer things like walking groups, EXTEND (chair-based exercise) classes and cooking mentor groups. Currently we’re running walking groups in Northfield, Kings Heath and West Heath, and they’re open to all our clients.

And this year, we’ve been making links with organisations who work with particularly vulnerable people, so that we can try and support some of Birmingham’s harder-to-reach communities – for example, ex-offenders, people with poor mental health, people who have experienced domestic abuse, or people who’ve experienced homelessness or substance misuse. If you are an organisation who works with hard-to-reach groups and you think your clients could benefit from a Health Trainer, please get in touch.

To get a taste of some of the life changing support Health Trainers offer, have a look at this video. Many thanks to our clients Linda, Keeley, Jenny and Brian for agreeing to go on camera for us!

News about the Gateway Health Trainers service

Health Trainer Richard with a clientAfter a period of uncertainty, we’re pleased to be able to confirm that the Gateway Health Trainers service will be continuing until at least March 2017.

Unfortunately, Birmingham Public Health has indeed ended their funding for Lighten Up, meaning that the Gateway Lighten Up service will end (although it will continue in Solihull).

Health Trainers: onwards and upwards

As Gateway Lighten Up stops taking referrals, we’re expecting an increase of referrals into Gateway Health Trainers. Of course, a Health Trainer is not a replacement for Lighten Up – we’re not a call centre, so we don’t have the capacity to work with as many people – but we can offer an alternative for at least some of the people who would have used Lighten Up, with one-to-one meetings, in person, for people who are looking to make lifestyle changes.

Working with more vulnerable people

New targets for us this year mean that Health Trainers are going to be focusing more on South Birmingham’s vulnerable communities. The service has always been open to everyone in South Birmingham, but this year we will start to specifically target more of the harder-to-reach communities: homeless people, people who’ve experienced domestic violence and substance misuse, and young people.

So we’ve been going out and talking directly with some of the agencies who work with vulnerable people, including Birmingham’s Homeless Services, women’s refuges, probation services and colleges, to make sure they know how to refer into Health Trainers and how we can help.

In fact, the number of Health Trainer clients who fall into the “vulnerable” category has risen anyway over the last three or four years… but in many cases we don’t find out until the client’s been with us for a while. It’s hard to admit you’re struggling, but our Health Trainers work hard to build up the sort of relationship where a client can disclose their personal circumstances and ask for help.

In one case, for example, one of our Health Trainers was working with a woman who was struggling to eat healthily. Eventually she admitted she was finding it particularly hard because she didn’t have a fridge, oven, or hob. Luckily, because South Birmingham Health Trainers are part of Gateway, they have a good knowledge of the support available, and access to an up-to-date network of extremely useful contacts. We helped her by working with her to find out what support was available to her from other agencies, as well as offering food parcels from our own foodbank and others in the city.

Because of the rising number of people who need this kind of extra help, Gateway Health Trainers have also been working with a group of GPs in Northfield, and Birmingham CAB, to offer a pilot programme called the Wellbeing Advisor Scheme. The service combines Health Trainers with social support from CAB to meet the needs of patients who are presenting with an increasing range of social issues, including debt, caring responsibilities, housing problems and social isolation. We often find that, once social issues begin to get sorted out, people are more open to lifestyle changes, so putting them together in this way makes a lot of sense.

… and a bit of good news!

health trainersFinally, Gateway Health Trainers have recently been given a boost, thanks to some new equipment: specialist scales from Benenden. These bariatric scales are designed especially for people who are morbidly obese – but they’re also extremely accurate, so we’re very pleased to be able to use them instead of standard scales. It also means that, rather than having to send people above a certain weight back to their GP to be weighed, we can now do it ourselves. Thanks, Benenden!

Are you aware of your alcohol intake?

This week is Alcohol Awareness Week, a campaign run by Alcohol Concern to get people thinking about alcohol – how it affects us as individuals, families, communities and society as a whole.

Graphics: Drinkaware
Pic: Drinkaware
Here in Birmingham, around 18% of the city’s population are drinking at a level which increases the risk of damaging their health, and alcohol-related healthcare costs in Birmingham are an estimated £55m a year, equating to £65 per adult. (Source: Alcohol Concern.)

Gateway’s Health Trainers include alcohol awareness as part of their everyday conversations with clients.

Health Trainer Susan says, “When new people are referred to us, we get them to complete a food and drink diary, and as part of this we will go through their alcohol units. Often, this is the first time people have become aware of exactly what they’re consuming week by week, and that includes how many units they’re drinking.” Often, we find that this awareness is enough to get people to start cutting down.

Graphics: Drinkaware
Pic: Drinkaware
For many people, talking about “units” and “measures” doesn’t really hit home without visual examples. Wayne, another Health Trainer says, “comparisons are really useful. We use examples like the equivalent in sugar – would you consume a cup of sugar in one sitting? Of course not, but that’s what you’re doing when you go to the pub and drink four or five pints.”

For many people drinking is part of their routine, so Health Trainers work with their clients to identify this and look for alternative habits. Susan says, “One woman I worked with used to go to the local shop and buy bits and bobs, including alcohol, most days. She spotted this was an issue so instead of habitually going to the shop, she started going for a 20 minute walk around the block instead. Obviously this has given her a number of benefits – she’s saving money and getting exercise as well as cutting right down on her alcohol intake.”

Graphics: Drinkaware
Pic: Drinkaware
Like all big lifestyle changes, people will often discuss it for a while before anything happens. Drinking and smoking will often be tackled after the client has made wider lifestyle changes, and it happens as part of that longer “chain reaction”. Our Health Trainers are particularly skilled at reminding people regularly – but gently! – of the need to cut down, spotting when someone is ready to take the next step, and supporting them through the changes. (We should also point out that if the Health Trainer identifies that someone has a problem with alcohol, then they will refer people to specialist alcohol misuse services.)

 

In these statements from clients, you can see a couple of different ways in which people have started to cut down on alcohol, as part of their wider lifestyle changes, after working with a Health Trainer:

 

I have been following your advice on how to reduce my alcohol intake by drinking water in between, and going to the pub later, plus planning what I am going to eat instead of just going for a take-away.

 

Since I’ve seen you last week I feel so much better. I’ve been to the gym and I’m looking to go three times a week. I’ve cut down to two coffees from five and drank loads of water. I’ve had no crisps, ice cream or alcohol. I’m on it now. It helps knowing I’m coming to see you because it makes me want to change.

 

Want to know more about alcohol awareness?

We run accredited courses in many health related subjects, including a Level 2 RSPH award in Understanding Alcohol Misuse. We deliver qualifications directly to your workforce and courses are tailored to your organisation’s needs. For more information, see our list of health and wellbeing courses and contact Michelle Smitten on 0121 456 7820.

Using client feedback to assess our impact

Last week we won two prestigious awards; an RSPH Three Year Health and Wellbeing Award and the Public Health Minister’s Award. One of the things Gateway was commended for was the way we take feedback from our clients.

“…the strategy for the compilation of clients’ feedback is accessible and innovative, facilitating the capture of users’ comments and feelings about the service they are receiving.” –RSPH

Impact Assessment AppAll of our services – the Pregnancy Outreach Workers Service, Health Trainers, Lighten Up and EAST – collect client feedback using our Impact Assessment App. At the first visit the staff member will take an initial statement, then we record feedback at each subsequent visit too.

This always includes a written (or dictated) statement, but can also include audio, video or a photo.

Richard (pictured below) is a Health Trainer who works from a surgery in South Birmingham. Like all our Health Trainers, he sees around 15 clients a week.

He says, “I ask every client, after every session, if they would mind saying a few words about how they’ve been getting on.

“We look at the App together on my tablet. Some prefer me to type, some type themselves. Some people let me record them speaking, and some will go on video to give their feedback.

richard“We take feedback every session, no matter how short the statement, or how negative the client might be feeling. Often the negative feelings are useful because in future sessions we can look back together and say ‘look how far you’ve come!’

“I find it really useful to be able to show people how the work they’re putting in is having an effect over time.”

As an organisation, the feedback every service gets from every client is extremely useful, as there is such a variety of data. Hearing from clients directly, rather than ticking boxes, means that we are getting a truer picture of the impact we are having. Recording clients in this way means that we often see issues and patterns that might not otherwise have shown up, which helps us to develop our services. It also makes it easier for us to present information about our work, and the impact it has, to others.

The development of the Impact Assessment App was a partnership between us, our friends at Podnosh, and the Nominet Trust. We are always looking to fill gaps in service, and we have always tried to look at a broad range of ways in which to do that, so working in partnership with other organisations, and using digital technology, has been a natural progression for us.

To give you an idea of the sorts of things our clients record onto the App, we’ve cut together a selection of audio clips. The people whose voices you can hear in this video are all Richard’s clients and the recordings were all taken over a single week. We think this gives a real sense of the sort of day to day work that Health Trainers do.

“My health trainer taught me to cook” – Daniel’s story

Daniel with his Health Trainer Glenn
Daniel with his Health Trainer Glenn

When Daniel was first referred into the Gateway Health Trainers service, he was 21 years old and morbidly obese.

The first thing his Health Trainer Glenn did – as all Health Trainers do – was to ask Daniel to complete a food diary.

The results were quite shocking.

Glenn says, “When I first met Daniel, his diet consisted of Greggs pasties and takeaways. His local chip shop owner would sell him all the food that was left over for £3.00 every night which often consisted of pies, fish, chips and kebab meat.”

Daniel and Glenn spoke at this year's Gala
Daniel and Glenn spoke at this year’s Gala

After working with Daniel for a couple of months Glenn referred him to the Lighten Up team and he was given vouchers for 12 free weeks at a Weight Watchers group. Daniel attended all the 12 sessions and lost a considerable amount of weight. He was also more active riding his bike everywhere.

However, once his support had ended, he started to put weight back on.

Daniel re-entered the service another couple of times and, as before, did well with the support of his Health Trainer but found it difficult to maintain what he’d learnt once his sessions were up.

Daniel came into the service for the fourth time in January this year. This time, though, following some training for our Health Trainers, Glenn has been able to employ some new tactics. As a trained Cooking Mentor, she’s been teaching Daniel to cook some of his favourite meals from scratch and he’s already starting to eat at home more.

In August, Daniel made a statement on our Impact Assessment App:

You have made me feel more positive and I am enjoying keeping the diaries. You have been round today and helped me cook a curry from scratch. I’m really looking forward to our next cooking session.

Sometimes, it can take many different approaches over many years to help someone really get to grips with a major lifestyle change. Teaching Daniel new skills like this should build his resilience and give him more confidence in himself, which in turn should help him to stick to his new habits.

Gateway Community Walk: get fitter and meet new friends

UPDATE 28/08/15: Gateway Community Walk cancelled

We are sorry to inform you that our Community Walk Event on Thursday 3rd September has been cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances. We will be rescheduling the Walk to a new date early next year. We apologise for any inconvenience caused and hope you will be able to participate next year.

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Click to view the poster
Click the poster to view full size

On Tuesday 3rd September we’re inviting anyone who’s interested to join us for a healthy, social day out: our Community Walk.

The idea of the Community Walk is simply to take a walk through south Birmingham, from Kings Norton to our offices at Edgbaston, stopping off along the way for refreshments. We’ll provide water and encouragement, and when we get to the Gateway offices we’ll provide lunch and lifts back to Kings Norton.

The walk is open to anyone, whether you’re a client of Gateway’s services or not. Why not ask your friends and family if they fancy a stroll?

We think the full six mile route will take us about three hours and it should be a great opportunity to meet new people and see some bits of the city you might not have seen before – not to mention feeling fitter and healthier!

If you’d rather not do the whole walk you can “hop on and off” at the rest stops. We hope to be at River Brook Surgery in Stirchley at around 12.00, and the mac at Cannon Hill Park at about 13.00.

If you’d like to come along, for any part of the walk, register your interest on 0121 456 7820 or info@gatewayfs.org, so we can start to gauge numbers.

Why walk?

Walking is a great exercise – it’s free, low impact and one of the easiest ways to improve your health and fitness. As the NHS Choices website explains, regular walking has been shown to reduce the risk of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, asthma, stroke and some cancers.

In previous years, we’ve organised a Fun Run, but we felt that a Community Walk might be more accessible. Although some people ran, the majority of people actually walked the Fun Run route – many with buggies or pushchairs.

Most used it as an opportunity to meet and chat to other people, too, so we know the event also has social benefits for the people taking part, and we’d like to build on that.

The Route

walkingThe route we’ll be taking goes from Kings Norton Surgery on the Redditch Road, and takes in the Rea Valley and Cannon Hill Park. We’ll provide a map on the day, but below is a list of the roads we plan to take, with the times we hope to arrive at each rest stop.

10.30 All walkers must register at Kings Norton Surgery
11.00 Depart Kings Norton Surgery
Pershore Road South
Melchett Road
Lifford Lane
Pershore Road
Fordhouse Lane
Follow Rea Valley route (off road)
Cartland Road
River Brook Drive
12.00 Arrive River Brook Medical Centre
12.20 Depart River Brook Medical Centre
Follow Rea Valley route (off road)
Dads Lane
Cecil Road
Kitchener Road
Follow Rea Valley route (off road)
Cannon Hill Park
13.00 Arrive at Mac, Cannon Hill Park
13.20 Depart Mac, Cannon Hill Park
Edgbaston Road
Pershore Road
Sir Harrys Road
Ampton Road
Carpenter Road
Church Road
Calthorpe Road
Highfield Road
14.00 Arrive at Gateway offices, Chamber of Commerce House, for lunch and refreshments.

Please register your interest on 0121 456 7820 or info@gatewayfs.org if you’d like to join the walk. In the meantime why not start warming up to take part? A little bit of walking each day is good for the body and mind. If you have a Health Trainer, let them know you want to take part in the Gateway Community Walk and they’ll help you to prepare.

We look forward to seeing you!

Announcing the Gateway Community Walk

UPDATE 28/08/15: Gateway Community Walk cancelled

We are sorry to inform you that our Community Walk Event on Thursday 3rd September has been cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances. We will be rescheduling the Walk to a new date early next year. We apologise for any inconvenience caused and hope you will be able to participate next year.

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This year, instead of a Fun Run, we’re planning a Community Walk on Thursday 3rd September.

Everyone who’s been to a Gateway Fun Run has said they enjoyed taking part in something fun and healthy, but we feel that a Community Walk might be more accessible than a Fun Run. In previous years, although some people ran, the majority of people actually walked the route. Most used it as an opportunity to meet and chat to other people, too, so we know the event also has social benefits for the people taking part, and we’d like to build on that.

Health Trainers lead the warmup at last year's Fun Run
Health Trainers lead the warmup at last year’s Fun Run

Most of the people who take part in the Fun Run each year are Lighten Up and Health Trainer clients – people who want to build a healthier lifestyle – and we hope that a Community Walk will give even more people the chance to join in. The walking route we’re organising will allow people to do as much or as little as they like, to go at their own pace and maybe socialise a little along the way.

We want this to be a fun group activity that anyone can get involved with at the level they can manage, but we also want to give the people we work an opportunity to set themselves a challenge. So we’re starting to tell everyone about it now – and we’ll be helping people to prepare, and to work up to doing the full walk if they want to.

The walk will be open to anyone, so if you’d like to get involved, speak to your Health Trainer or Lighten Up Administrator – or just give us a ring here on 0121 456 7820 to register your interest.

The route

We haven’t finalised the route yet, but it’s likely to start in Kings Norton at about 11am and end at the Gateway offices in Edgbaston at about 2pm, taking in the Rea Valley and Cannon Hill Park.

GP surgeries, particularly in South Birmingham, play a big part in our work – they refer people to us and provide the space for our Health Trainers to meet with people, and we know that lots of the people we work with relate to their GPs as a community facility. So we’ll be starting the walk at Kings Norton Surgery, and we’ve asked a few other surgeries we work with if we can use them as staging posts along the route.

It should take about three hours to complete the whole walk at a steady pace, but people can just do a section of the route if they prefer. Our staff will be on hand with warm-up exercises and encouragement along the way. At the Gateway offices we’ll provide refreshments and organise transport back to Kings Norton for those who need it.

Watch this space!

We’ll be providing more information here when we have it, but in the meantime why not start warming up to take part? A little bit of walking each day is good for the body and mind. If you have a Health Trainer, let them know you want to take part in the Gateway Community Walk and they’ll help you to prepare.

In the video of last year’s Fun Run you can see how keen people were to take part at all levels. Most people walked rather than running, but all enjoyed the day out (despite the rain!)

Fasting for Ramadan: in our clients’ own words

Health TrainersWith a week to go until the end of Ramadan, some of the Health Trainer clients who have been fasting have been telling us how they’re getting on.

This year, the fasting day is around 19 hours long. There is a meal each morning just before dawn (Suhoor – currently around 02.30am) and a meal to break the fast at dusk (Iftar – currently around 09.30pm), but between these times, while the sun is up, most Muslims don’t eat or drink at all.

For people who are fasting, the hot weather has meant a bigger risk of becoming dehydrated, and the short nights mean that many people aren’t getting a lot of sleep. It’s difficult, but then the holy month is supposed to be about self-discipline and self-control. Many of our clients are pleased just to get through the day.

We record statements from the people we work with after every appointment, using our Impact Assessment App, so we’ve put together a few of the comments people have made about their fast. You can see that the themes of discipline and focus are very prevalent.

Sheryar has become more active since seeing a Health Trainer, but exercise has taken a back seat over the last few weeks:

Not done much [exercise] due to Ramadan but trying to remain disciplined.

Adil said:

My aim was to remain focused during Ramadan. I think I’ve done well so far.

For many Muslims, the first meal after the day’s fast often includes fried foods like samosas or kebabs. So Health Trainers advise their clients to try and keep to the healthier options, offering alternatives and ways of cooking “treat” foods in a healthier way.

Mohsinn said:

Eating healthy, feeling pleased I’ve stayed away from fried food this Ramadan.

Gul said:

Ramadan helps with discipline. I’m pleased so far I have kept on track.

Oumy has been able to keep up the good work she started before Ramadan. Her daughter interpreted for her to explain the changes she’d made since the last appointment, saying:

She doesn’t use sugar now, she uses sweeteners in her coffee. I have managed to persuade her to have fruit daily. At the moment she is fasting but when she breaks her fast to eat she does have some fruit. She has also cut down on fizzy drinks. That’s so good she has lost four inches from her waist.

Our Health Trainers often hear people saying they intend to use Ramadan as an opportunity to challenge unhealthy habits. It’s tough on the body, but it’s also a very spiritual, mindful time of the year, so for someone who wants to make lifestyle changes, being forced to be think carefully about what’s going into their body can be a positive thing.

Fowsia said:

At the moment I am participating in Ramadan. What I would like to do when I come back for my next appointment is to keep a food diary, so you can tell me in more detail what changes I should make to try to lose weight. But I think I will lose some weight during Ramadan.

Health Trainer Hana says, “People often think that they’ll lose weight during Ramadan, but this isn’t necessarily the case. If you break your fast with a big, oily, fatty meal every day, your body will find it difficult. If you do want to use the time to try and lose weight, make sure you eat a normal sized, balanced meal in the evening. And don’t forget your five a day!”

For more tips from our Health Trainers, see our previous blog posts, Stay healthy during Ramadan from last year, and Five tips for a healthy Ramadan from 2013.

Pre-diabetes: preventing diabetes with a healthy diet

Many clients are referred to our Health Trainers service because they have been diagnosed as “pre-diabetic”, or “borderline diabetic”. But what does this mean?

“Pre-diabetes” is when someone’s blood glucose (sugar) levels are above the normal range, but not high enough for them to be diagnosed as having diabetes. If someone’s blood sugar levels are consistently higher than normal then they may be at risk of Type 2 diabetes if they don’t take preventative steps.

This is where our Health Trainers come in.

GlennGlenn Rogers (pictured) says, “We get many people referred to us because their doctor has diagnosed them as ‘pre-diabetic’ or ‘at risk of diabetes’. So we work around their diet to find out how they could be eating more healthily, and help them to start exercising more. With care it’s possible to bring their sugar levels right down so they’re no longer at risk.”

Zahra’s story

Zahra* was referred to Glenn just last month, and on her first visit she gave the following statement on our Impact Assessment App:

My doctor has told me that I am pre diabetic and that my blood sugar levels are too high. I dont really understand what diabetes is or what I am doing wrong. I really need some information around my diet

In the following session, which was last week, she said:

I have filled in a food diary which we have looked at together. I have come to realise that I eat far too much food on the evening.

Glenn says, “Zahra isn’t overweight, but her blood sugar levels are high, so we’ve looked at her diet together and we’ve already found some ways in which it can improve. The main thing is that Zahra eats a small breakfast and lunch, but then a very large evening meal. The food itself isn’t bad, but her portion sizes in the evening are very large and include a lot of carbohydrates.

“So I’ve advised her to try and even things out a bit – to eat three evenly sized meals a day rather than two small and one large. I’ve also advised her to replace some of the carbs; rather than a large portion of rice and bread, she could have a few more vegetables instead. Hopefully, these changes will help start to lower her blood sugar levels and prevent her from becoming diabetic.”

David’s story

David* was referred to a Health Trainer last year and worked with Keiran McKenzie. At his first visit, David’s statement on our Impact Assessment App said:

I was referred by my doctor who recently checked my blood result and said I ought to come and see you.

Six months later, David recorded a short statement, which you can hear below. Not only has he lost weight, but his blood sugar and cholesterol levels have decreased, meaning his risk of developing diabetes is much lower.

The NHS reports that 35.3% of adults in the UK now have prediabetes, and that around 5-10% of people with prediabetes will go on to progress to “full-blown” type 2 diabetes in any given years. So the work that Health Trainers do with “pre-diabetic” people is hugely important.

*names have been changed

Getting a social life… through exercise!

Gateway’s work often explores the link between physical activity and good mental health. We’ve found that people who are more physically active generally feel happier and more confident. So for people who are socially isolated, starting to exercise can make a world of difference.

lesleyLesley (pictured) started seeing a Health Trainer at the end of last year, asking for some support to make changes to her lifestyle. Her main goal was to lose weight – she was physically inactive, as she’s disabled, and she had a poor diet. In her meetings with Sean, Lesley also reported a low level of wellbeing, explaining that she often felt stressed and anxious.

Sean put Lesley in touch with Gateway’s Lighten Up service, which allowed her to access a weight loss group. She chose Slimming World, and began going in January this year.

In April this year, we received a comment out of the blue on our blog post Health Trainers – making the whole home healthier:

My health trainer Sean recently got me [into] Slimming World. I started on 6/1/15 & have manged to loose 1 1/2 st – which i am pleased with because i am disabled. I now go swimming 3 – 4 times a week & have made friends & now have a social life….My hubby & daughter are also following the diet.
I have one regretvwish i had joined Slimming World sooner. — LESLEY

Lesley is not only becoming fitter and healthier physically, but she is starting to see benefits to her general wellbeing too. She’s got support and buy-in from her family, who are also benefiting by following the new diet, and she’s also seeing the start of a new social life. We’re really happy to hear that Lesley’s new exercise habits are enabling her to build new routines and make new friends.

Making friends – at all ages

As people get older, it often becomes harder to maintain and make new friendships. Age UK reports that “more than a million older people in the UK go for a month or more without seeing or speaking to anyone”.

Join the Big Chinwag!
Join the Big Chinwag!

To highlight the issue of social isolation in older people, Age UK are suggesting people hold a Big Chinwag on 19th June, where friends get together to fundraise by simply having a natter with friends. The money raised goes to Age UK to help lonely older people across the country.

But of course, as Lesley has shown, it’s not just older people who need friends.

Gateway’s Volunteer Befrienders visit and support people of all ages who might otherwise be isolated, including our Pregnancy Outreach clients. We’re always looking for new volunteers and new clients, so get in touch if you think you could volunteer as a befriender, and visit someone to offer support, or if you or someone you know would benefit from a companion.

We love hearing about ways in which our work has helped people to become happier and healthier. Thanks very much to Lesley for leaving a comment, and for talking to Sean about her new social life in this short video, taken at their most recent appointment, which you can watch below.