Kāpiti Coast Age Concern delivers increased fitness

“Mum is now more confident going out. She hasn’t been out to do her own shopping for ages due to covid restrictions and hip surgery when she lost confidence going to the supermarket alone. I don’t think she realised how much she missed shopping for groceries and all the little interactions she has on the way.“
Daughter of client.

NZCT has granted Age Concern Kāpiti $10,000 towards paying a salary for a Companion Walking Service Co-ordinator for one year.

A Personal Perspective On Kāpiti Walking Service, By Janet Lowe.

I haven't always been a slouchy couch potato. Forty years of living with dogs guaranteed me at least an hour of enjoyable exercise each day and I took my fitness for granted back then.

Things changed forever when my two dogs died and with the arrival of lung disease. It was a gradual and insidious change which became a major problem before I was conscious of it being a minor one. Some days I would exercise a little and others not at all. My fitness level dropped and I realised I had to fix this, but how?

A casual flick through an Age Concern newsletter at the Health Centre triggered an eureka moment and gave me the answer I'd been looking for. Contact was made and enter Rachel, my walking angel. As well as providing motivation, Rachel has made a huge difference in many unexpected ways. I was starting to isolate socially and spending time with Rachel on a regular basis has helped alleviate this.

I’m very grateful to Age Concern Kāpiti for their great matchmaking. In Rachel, I’ve met someone whose conversation, humour, and sharing of stories is akin to my own. We laugh a lot and have enough in common to make for an easy, no-stress relationship. I’m motivated to reclaim my fitness and now make an extra effort to get out more even when I’m not out with Rachel.

Kāpiti Coast Age Concern Manager Susan Church adds -

A part-time Co-ordinator was employed to establish and develop guidelines for the Companion Walking Service in June 2022, but funding for this service was limited to only six hours per week for one year and ended in May 2023. This funding from NZCT will enable us to maintain and grow the service for older people who need the security and companionship of a volunteer to assist them on walks.

Just over a year ago, Age Concern Kāpiti set up the CWS with Julie Hodgson acting as the local coordinator. Funding was received for one year only. The CWS is for senior citizens who would benefit from the security and companionship of a volunteer to assist them on walks. It is well known that older people are vulnerable to social isolation and loneliness and the benefits of CWS include increased physical, social, and mental wellbeing.

The first volunteer application was received in late September 2022 and our first volunteer-client match took place in October, resulting in the completion of our first companion walk in late November. Since then, we’ve received a total of twenty-three volunteer applications and twenty-two clients have been referred to us. We currently have nineteen matched volunteers and visitors.

The funding from NZCT means that we can continue to employ our CWS Coordinator at her current number of six hours a week until November 2024. While it’s challenging to continue to grow the service with limited hours, we are committed to ensuring it continues. Our whaiora are reaping many benefits, with reports of increased confidence, improved fitness, and social connectivity.

The Social Report 2016 showed that 10% of New Zealanders aged 64-74 and 13% of those over 75 feel lonely all, most, or some of the time. Furthermore, the Social Wellbeing Agency Toi Hau Tāngata found that the COVID-19 pandemic greatly increased social isolation and loneliness among the elderly, both of which are associated with poor health and wellbeing.

Age Concern Kāpiti was founded in 1990 and we are one of thirty-five independent entities around Aotearoa. We survive by applying for grants from charities and the lottery commission, gifts from private donors, and Age Concern NZ’s national contracts (Visiting Service, Steady As You Go, and Staying Safe).

The Kāpiti CWS complements other programmes run by Kāpiti Age Concern, including our Age Concern Visiting Service, Steady As You Go (falls prevention exercises), Healthy Ageing Together group and Staying Safe (refresher courses for elderly drivers).

We receive referrals from GPs, nurse practitioners, physiotherapists, and general enquiries from the public wanting volunteer walkers for their parents and elderly relatives. Thanks to NZCT, we can now develop and grow this service throughout the entire Kapiti Coast.